Saturday, August 17, 2019

Casimer Norwaish (1919-2008)

Casimer Joseph Norwaish was born on December 31, 1919, in Gary, Indiana. His parents were Lithuanian immigrants by the name of Alex Norvaisis, Norvaisha, Norvaish, Norvish, or Norvick (1887-1963) and Monica "Minnie" Venslovas or Wenslovas (1888-1981). Alex was a baker and ran his own shop and delivery service. Once in the lake region of northern Indiana, he and his wife seem to have remained for the rest of their long lives.

Casimer, nicknamed Cas or Cass, was the middle born of their children. He had an older brother, Alex Norwaish (1918-1981), and a younger sister, Veronica Norvish (b. 1924), who I believe died in infancy. Casimer attended Horace Mann High School and Tolleston High School in his hometown. In 1939, he graduated from the Fort Wayne Art School in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and during World War II served in the U.S. Navy. On June 17, 1947, he married Dorothy Snapp in New York City.

Although he worked as a commercial artist and advertising artist, Casimer Norwaish has come to my attention as an illustrator. The first credit I have for him is his cover illustration for The Great Lockout in American Citizenship (1937) by William Albert Wirt (1874-1938), a teacher and educational innovator in the Gary schools. After the war, Norwaish worked for Bonsib Advertising, a firm established by Indiana artist Louis William Bonsib (1892-1979) in Fort Wayne. Bonsib served as president of the Fort Wayne Art School in 1948-1949.

I discovered Casimer Norwaish just this week when I found a paperback mystery at the local secondhand store, entitled The Kidnap Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine (Bantam, 1948) and with cover art by Norwaish. Unlike so many paperbacks from the 1940s and after, this one has something about the artist. Opposite the title page are these tidbits:

About THE COVER
     Artist Casimer Norwaish, who painted the tense scene on the cover, claims it's absolutely authentic. To get an accurate picture of Philo Vance, "Cass" copied photographs of S.S. Van Dine. Seems he was a dead ringer for his own description of Vance. To create Madelaine Kenting, the frightened woman Vance is questioning, "Cass" says he simply drew the picture of a beautiful blonde that every artist has at the back of his mind!
Norwaish created the covers for at least three other paperback mysteries, Murder Cheats the Bride by Anthony Gilbert (Bantam, 1948), Come and Kill Me (originally Brat Farrar) by Josephine Tey (Pocket Books, 1949), and So Young a Body by Frank Bunce (Pocket Books, 1951). His illustrations also appeared in and on the cover of The American Legion Magazine in 1951. I suspect that he created still more paperback covers and magazine illustrations for which he did not receive credit. As a commercial artist and advertising artist, he would have been anonymous or almost anonymous, and so we have very little that is known to have been his work. That's a shame, for Norwaish was an accomplished illustrator who worked in a classic mid-century style that is so much missed today.

Like others in his family, Casimer Norwaish lived a long life. His came to an end on March 24, 2008, in South Bend, Indiana, and though his family was Catholic, his body was cremated.






Above and below: Casimer Norwaish's illustrations for "The Ship the Nazis Had to Get" by James H. Winchester, from The American Legion Magazine, August 1951. Two months after its publication in magazine form, Winchester's article was read by Ray Milland on the NBC radio show The Cavalcade of America on October 16, 1951. Note the spelling of Norwaish's name as "Norwaist."



Above: Norwaish's illustration for "Our New Privileged Class" by Eugene Lyons from The American Legion Magazine, September 1951.

Casimer Norwaish as a student at Horace Mann High School in Gary, Indiana, 1935.

This year, 2019, marks the hundredth anniversary year of the founding of the American Legion, as well as that of Casimer Norwaish's birth. So, Happy Birthday to both.

Original text and captions copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 4, 2019

May the Fourth Be With You! 2019

We're in the last year of Star Wars movies but on this Star Wars day--May the Fourth--I'd like to look back and remember two who have left us.

Peter Mayhew died last week, on April 30, 2019. Star Wars fans know him as Chewbacca, Han Solo's sidekick and co-pilot. Born on May 19, 1944, he was not an actor at all until George Lucas cast him as Chewbacca in 1976. The three main actors get lots of credit for the success of Star Wars, but can you imagine the original or its two sequels without Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca? It's a sad thing to contemplate.

Strangely, Chewbacca began life as a pointy-eared alien. Only later was he softened into a furry and lovable creature. The artist who first depicted him was a Hoosier, Ralph McQuarrie, who was born on June 13, 1929, in Gary, Indiana. McQuarrie wasn't in the movie business, either, until shortly before George Lucas hired him to create pre-production artwork for Star Wars. He went on to work on many more movies. A great deal of the look and mood of the Star Wars universe is based on his work. Ralph McQuarrie died on March 3, 2012.

As it turns out, Chewbacca's final appearance was inspired by the works of another artist and another writer. The writer was someone you might have heard of, George R.R. Martin, who wrote a story called "And Seven Times Never Kill Man," which was published in Analog in July 1975. The artist was John Schoenherr (1935-2010), who illustrated Mr. Martin's story and provided a painting for the cover of Analog that Star Wars fans will, I think, find very familiar. (In addition to Chewbacca, think Ewoks.) Michael Heilemann tells the full story on his very fine blog Kitbashed: The Origin of Star Wars, here.

Early promotional poster artwork by Ralph McQuarrie, dated April 1, 1975. The tall, pointy-eared alien is an early version of Chewbacca. Note the resemblance of the Luke Skywalker-like character to George Lucas and the golden robot to the figure in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. You can see why McQuarrie's pre-production paintings of Star Wars helped to sell Twentieth Century Fox on the project. It must have been this version of Chewbacca to whom Carrie Fisher referred in her audition for Star Wars.

Here's a sketch of the new, furry Chewbacca. The body and the getup are mostly the same. It's the head and arms that have changed, based on inspiration by science fiction artist John Schoenherr from 1975.

Here is Chewbacca with the other principals on Tatooine. Painting by Ralph McQuarrie.

And here he is again on the Death Star in another of McQuarrie's famed panoramic paintings.

Original text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley, with acknowledgments to Michael Heilemann for his research on the origins of Chewbacca. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Buffleheads by Mac Heaton

February is the month in which migratory ducks return to the Midwest--if they weren't already here in January--and one of the cutest and most fun to watch is the little bufflehead. Buffleheads are diving ducks, and where they dive is in our big rivers and lakes. First you'll see the bright white head of the male. Then you'll see him plunge, only to come up again somewhere close by. In its issue of January 1964, Outdoor Indiana had buffleheads on its cover in a portrait by Mac Heaton (1925-2002). If you're lucky and you look hard enough this late winter, maybe you'll see the real thing.


Text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Abe Lincoln and Garo Antreasian

Today, February 12, 2019, is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln. He was born in Kentucky, but in the late fall of 1816, just a few weeks before Indiana became a state, he came with his family to the future land of Hoosiers. Abe spent fourteen years in Indiana before moving on to Illinois. That state may rightly claim the title of "the Land of Lincoln," but it was in Indiana that he grew up.

Outdoor Indiana, the magazine of the Indiana Department of Conservation, now the Department of Natural Resources, featured Abraham Lincoln in its issue of June 1963, one hundred years minus a month after the twin Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The art on the front and back covers is from a design by Garo Z. Antreasian of Indianapolis. As you can see, the cover design is actually a photograph of a mosaic mural made from over 300,000 pieces of imported Murano glass, set by Ralph Peck and Mrs. Charles Pitts. It is located in the Indiana Government Center North, then called the Indiana State Office Building.

Garo Antreasian was born on February 16, 1922, in Indianapolis to parents who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915. He attended Arsenal Technical High School, which was known for its programs in arts and graphics, and the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. (1) During World War II, he served as a combat artist with the U.S. Coast Guard. Afterwards he taught at Herron before moving on the teaching jobs in Los Angeles and New Mexico. Mr. Antreasian retired in 1986 and died only recently, on November 3, 2018, eight days before Veterans Day. He was ninety-six years old. So today, in the month of their birthdays, we honor Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, but we may also honor another man of greatness who honored him.

Note
(1) Arsenal Technical High School, usually just shortened to "Tech," got its name from its use as an Civil War-era arsenal. The arsenal was closed in 1903. The school was opened in 1912.



Text copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, January 7, 2019

The International Day of the Cartoonist 2019

Today is what I call the International Day of the Cartoonist. It was on this day in 2015 that five cartoonists working for the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were murdered for their art. They called themselves Wolinski, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous, and Charb--respectively, George David Wolinski (1934-2015), Jean Cabut (1938-2015), Philippe Honoré (1941-2015), Bernard Verlhac (1957-2015), and Stéphane Charbonnier (1967-2015). Their murderers were adherents to a totalitarian ideology, one of many that I suspect will forever be a plague on humanity.

There is an organization devoted to defending cartoonists from those who would wish to silence them. It's called Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI), and every year since 1999 it has given out its Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. The most recent winner is Pedro X. Molina of Nicaragua, who has drawn cartoons in opposition to President Daniel Ortega and his regime. Mr. Molina received his award in 2018.

You can read more about Pedro X. Molina and CRNI at its website:


By the way, Hoosier cartoonist Joel Pett serves as president of CRNI.

Copyright 2019 Terence E. Hanley