Wright Museum presents “Pvt. Charles J. Miller: WWII Paintings from the South Pacific”

The Wright Museum of World War II is proud to present the extraordinary paintings of the WWII soldier/artist Charles J. Miller. A self-taught draftsman and painter with a remarkable inherent talent, his depictions of the South Pacific bring to life the everyday experiences of the servicemen who fought in that WWII theater. The exhibit was last shown at the Wright Museum in 2016, before being adapted for travel. From 2019 to 2022, the exhibit traveled the United States before returning home for this exhibition.

New Hampshire native Charles Miller (1906-1994) was born to first-generation Lithuanian immigrants. Charlie’s talent for drawing was evident even as a young child. However, because of desperate economic conditions, Charlie was discouraged from his art – quitting school after the sixth grade to join his parents working in a Nashua, NH cotton mill. Charlie continued to secretly draw and paint, taking library books on art instruction into the attic where he honed his skills. He never received any formal art training.

At the age of 18, Charlie enlisted in the U.S. Army to help support the family, serving three terms in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1942, Charlie was drafted back into the service and stationed in the South Pacific until October 1945. It was during his WWII years that Charlie drew and painted scenes of the everyday life of the servicemen around him. The resulting pieces are powerful works of art, full of wonderful color, dramatic action, and keen observation. They are also unique historical documents because Charlie included in the paintings written descriptions of the scenes he was witnessing. In many of the artworks, you will even see the artist himself as part of the action.

Charlie never considered himself a “real” artist, saying, “I am just a guy with a hobby.” He never sold any of his war paintings, but he frequently gave away works to servicemen who showed an appreciation of his art. Charlie estimated that he created over seven hundred of these South Pacific paintings. He said of the descriptive scenes, “You see what I saw.”

“Pvt. Charles J. Miller: WWII Paintings from the South Pacific” gives you the rare opportunity to see what this unassuming soldier and artist saw seven decades ago. The exhibit will be on dispaly in the museum’s Art Gallery from May 1 – June 15, and September 15 – October 31, with selected highlights remaining on display from July 1 – September 6.

This exhibition was made possible with the assistance of Bob and Nancy Dennis, and James and Jonie Clemons, and was curated by the Wright Museum of WWII.