"Landing at Saipan" by William F. Draper.
October 1, 2008
Draper and Kennedy
Hopedale in September Hopedale Pond in September
Were knives made at Draper Corporation during World War II and given to their employees who
went into the service? I’ve been asked that question a couple of times and haven’t found anyone
who knows anything about it. Click here to read more about this.
Draper and Kennedy
William F. Draper, grandson of the general of the same name, was a Navy combat artist in World
War II, and in the years after that, he was a portrait artist. Peter Metzke, whose name must be
familiar by now to regular readers of these articles, recently sent yet another Hopedale item to
me; an extensive interview with Draper. It was sponsored by the Smithsonian and done in 1977.
In contains many anecdotes about his life as an artist, including World War II stories, starting in
Alaska and continuing on to Tarawa, Saipan and Guam. It also tells of painting Admiral Halsey,
Admiral Nimitz, the Shah of Iran, and quite a bit about the Kennedys, among others. Click here to
start the entire interview, or read on for some of his memories of painting President Kennedy.
Draper died in 2003 and is buried in Hopedale Village Cemetery. Who was Mr. McNaught? I have
no idea, other than that he’s the guy who conducted the interview.
MR. DRAPER: And so the next day he posed for me and I -- he was worried as a matter of fact
about his jowls because his face -- when I met him in Washington he really, his face had really
gotten very heavy and thick because of this -- I think it was cortisone he was taking for his back or
MR. MCNAUGHT: Oh, for his back.
MR. DRAPER: He didn't look well. And then all the swelling had gone when I painted him. Luckily I
painted him in 1962. He looked very young. Boy, did he age the next year after that. But my picture
I think is one of the best I've ever done and I think I caught him really right. I have him looking
almost straight ahead and he kept turning his head when I would look up to be sideward. I would
-- then he would look around and I would say, "Look at me, Jack," or Mr. President. I'm sure I
never said Jack. He would look around and then I could see his face full forward you see, full
face. I painted him -- at the time he was in a skivvy shirt out on the patio of the house in Palm
Beach that they had been given to live in as a Palm Beach White House. And so he posed there,
but talked to Mrs. Lincoln all the time in his skivvy shirt, reading his letters and doing that, and
then Pierre Salinger would come in. He would suddenly say, "You know, Mrs. Lincoln, have you
got that -- has so and so answered that letter I sent off two weeks ago?" Like that he remembered
different things and she would say, "Yes, I've got the answer here," or this and that. He was very
businesslike. I was very impressed. But he was in his skivvy shirt. When I finished it he said, he
told me I couldn't show it until clothed, that he had a tie and a coat on. Well, I did it on a small 20 x
20 canvas but I had plenty around. So I stretched it into a 25, 30 and painted it in after. It was all
done and I had come back and I had painted in a blue suit and a Speed Club tie. Well, then I
showed it to him when I finished. He was at the Carlyle Hotel and I went over and showed it to
him there. He loved it. He had Hallmark Cards reproduce it, a big picture. Well, not big, maybe 14
by 17. When he went to South America he gave it away to the head of state and I was very
pleased. Then I was commissioned by some class at Choate to give a picture of the President to
Choate and he was going to come up and pose for one hour for me in my studio. LeMoyne
Billings was going to come to the studio and see it. I had worked, got a professional model to sit
in a chair and I got the chair over from the Carlyle Hotel, all the paraphernalia, and whipped this
thing out. He was to come and sit for it. Well, Billings came in and looked at it and said, "Oh, Bill,
this is wonderful. We don't need to do anything." He called the President up and said, "You don't
have to come." I was so mad. He said, "It's fine the way it is." I had just copied the head from my
picture. So the one at Choate could have been from life. The body and everything was painted
from the model from life and painted in my style, and then I used my own head to block it in. I wish
I had never finished it. I wish I had just blocked it in and let Billings see it that way. Then the
President would have come and sat for an hour and I would have had it. Well, anyway, it turned
out very well, the one at Choate.
MR. MCNAUGHT: Did he ever see that one?
MR. DRAPER: Oh, yes. He couldn't get up to the unveiling but they had a tape of him saying I'm so
sorry I can't be there in person but my voice is here and I'm so delighted to -- and said good
morning, Dr. St. John and all of the, you know, and a little speech at the presentation. I was up in
the dais with Dr. St. John, the headmaster. Then they said, "The President of the United States
will now speak." The tape evidently got going too fast and so they had to turn it off and rewind it
and then slow it down. They finally had John Kennedy talking and saying hello to everybody in his
voice. But that was very funny. It got everybody hysterical. Then the picture was hung at Choate.
William F. Draper obituaries.
Helen Blois Hammond, 90, September 13, 2008
Bruna M. (Mei) Bresciani, 93, September 20, 2008
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