Childhood Memories of Tom Dunn
When I keep my eyes alert, my ears tuned in and my heart open, life opens the door to unexpected and treasured friendships. Little did I know, when painting the birdhouses and lupine in Renee’s Garden last spring, a private history of Iwo Jima would step out of books and films and become alive and personal over cups of tea. Little did I know that I had stepped into the world of an amazing artist who sent illustrated, war time, love letters to Renee and Suzanne’s mother.
“During World War II more than 100 U.S. servicemen and civilians served as ‘combat artists’. They depicted the war as they experienced it with their paintbrushes and pens. Their stories have never been told, and for fifty years their artwork, consisting of more than 12,000 pieces has been largely forgotten — until now.” http://www.pbs.org/theydrewfire/index.html
Renee’s Tea Parties are difficult to describe. Alice and the Mad Hatter would be envious. The table is set with dishes and tea cups that are straight out of illustrated children’s books. Party favors, wrapped chocolates, sparkly decorations and wine glasses share the table top with delicious appetizers followed by scrumptious entree …. followed by yummy sweets and coffee. Laughter, smiles and stories of our lives stopped time in its tracks.
Tom Dunn was Renee and Suzanne’s father. After returning from serving in World War II he worked as a court illustrator and a book/cover illustrator as well as painting high-profile portraits and filling his sketchbooks with drawings of the local marine life and fishermen of the Jersey Shore. Whereas most people became familiar with Tom Dunn’s work by seeing it reproduced on book jackets, Renee and Suzanne grew up with the original paintings sometimes haunting them, hanging high above the door of the tool shed or having their gaze follow them about the room. Tom Dunn was a man of many faces, close friends with both the famous and the unknown. He brought his children with him, introducing them to the strange and wonderful worlds of creative minds. I wonder what stories my own children will tell of their childhood, growing up as children of an artist.
Photo: Tom Dunn’s Prayer Card
Painting: Renee’s Tea Party – drawn first in ink with fountain pen, followed by watercolor.