NEWBURYPORT — With his latest painting, local artist Robert Brun set out to capture the emotion and hardship behind the infamous Battle of the Bulge.
Brun, a Baltimore native and Newburyport resident for more than 30 years, created the painting to commemorate the 75-year anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, which was Germany’s final major offensive on the Western Front during World War II.
The battle lasted from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, in the dense Ardennes forest, and was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by Americans during the war.
The recently finished painting depicts a squad of American soldiers hiding in a trench from a row of heavily armed German tanks approaching through a snowy, forested landscape. The painting will make its public debut Feb. 1 at the Museum of American Heritage in Hudson.
Rather than focus on a particular scene or historical moment, Brun insists that the painting is allegorical and aims to capture the emotions that American soldiers must have felt during the battle’s harsh conditions.
“I wanted to capture the overwhelming force of these rested, fully armed fresh German troops coming in with all this armor against this lightly defended area where these guys had been on the line, thinking things would be quiet,” Brun explained. “The main thing, though, is that they had never been so cold in their entire lives.”
Brun, a lifelong artist received his bachelor of fine arts from the Rhode Island Institute of Design in 1980, and worked for various advertising agencies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island before transitioning to freelance illustration. In the late 1990s, he shifted his focus to fine art, where he found inspiration in the model planes he built and flew as a child.
Brun was accepted into the American Society of Aviation Artists in 1999, and has since masterfully executed dozens of historical aviation and military aircraft drawings and paintings.
Each is carefully researched to ensure accuracy down to the most painstaking detail. He has also continued to work closely with the Collings Foundation, a Stow-based nonprofit military vehicle museum that focuses on historical preservation.
As showcased through his latest work, “The Battle of the Bulge,” Brun is less inspired by the action scenes or heroism of warfare than he is by the vulnerability and unlikely stories of those involved in battle.
“I prefer to dig into it and find the humanity,” he said. “As horrible as it is, war has the tendency to bring out the best and the worst in people at the same time. ... The responsibility is not to glorify war and to tell it like it is.”
Brun said he is continually inspired by his conversations with veterans, who often reveal surprising details about their time overseas.
“You come across things you never knew before,” Brun said. “I definitely have a respect for that generation that has been earned, and is verified every time I meet someone from it.”
Brun is temporarily living in West Newbury as he awaits an opportunity to return to the city he calls home. In the meantime, Brun said he looks forward to unveiling and speaking about his painting next month, and to working on his next project: a painting inspired by the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.
“I’m excited for the debut, but I never get a chance to see the whole thing complete,” Brun said. “When I look at my paintings, I can’t help but see the sketches, the parts I scraped off ... you can never get those things out of your mind.”
For more on Brun’s artwork, visit www.fighterartist.com.
Staff writer Jack Shea can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.