AAJ MEMBER MARIANNE KRIZNER RECOGNIZED
Published in the Tribune Democrat: September 11, 2009
Sentimental gift: Couple donate fighter jet painting to museum
By TOM LAVIS
Westmont artist Marianne Krizner has had
many of her paintings displayed in area
exhibitions, but a work she did 30 years ago
will be standing the test of time in an esteemed
museum’s permanent collection.
It has been three decades since she created
an oil painting depicting two Douglas AD
Skyraiders flying above the USS Coral Sea in
celebration of her husband, Bob’s, 51st birthday.
Bob, a former Navy pilot who achieved the rank
of lieutenant junior grade and served from 1946
through 1952, flew a Skyraider and served on
the 1,000-foot, straight-deck Coral Sea.
The Krizners made a decision to offer the
57-by-48-inch painting to the National Naval
Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. Marianne (seated above) with the painting, sent a letter and photograph of the painting for the museum’s consideration.
Bob belongs to a group of aviators called the Flying Midshipmen Association. The flight program was created in the late 1940s, when Congress approved a proposal by Rear Adm. James L. Holloway Jr. to revitalize the Navy’s flying force. Depleted by wartime casualties and the post- World War II discharge of seasoned aviators, this initiative was designed to replace losses by attracting high school graduates to flying careers by paying for two years of college education. The U.S. Navy gained more than 2,000 aviators this way, including Bob.
“While at a reunion of the Flying Midshipmen at Pensacola in May, we went to the museum and learned that our offer had been accepted,” Bob said. The painting will soon be in possession of the world’s largest naval aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Hill Goodspeed, aviation museum historian and artifact collections manager, said a painting has to meet certain criteria before being added to the museum’s permanent collection, which now numbers about 3,900 pieces.
“We look at the quality of the piece, the condition, and (we) look at the needs of our collection before we obtain it,” he said. “The painting may be displayed in any number of galleries, on the museum floor, in offices or next to the appropriate aircraft,” Goodspeed said. “We have about 750,000 visitors each year to our museum.” Goodspeed said only about 10 pieces a year are considered for acquisition.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think the painting would be going to a museum,” Marianne said. But the decision to give up the painting that has meant so much to the Krizner family is bittersweet. The couple carefully transported the painting to Baltimore, where it was crated and shipped to the aviation museum.
The space above the sofa in the family room may be empty, but the expanse is full of memories. The project began when the couple went to Buck’s Hobby Shop in downtown Johnstown in search of an authentic model of the aircraft carrier Coral Sea. “They had one, and we brought it home and let our boys put it together,” Marianne said. The model, which still is on display in the Krizner home, is detailed right down to the line of anti-aircraft guns below the flight deck. “I have never been over the ocean, but I decided to paint the aircraft flying in a threatening sky while they flew over the carrier in rough seas, because Bob told me of some of his stressful experiences while trying to land in such conditions,” she said. The whitecaps on the ocean’s surface in the painting are representative of the choppy seas, as is the wake of the ship, which dissipates quickly in rugged water. The model served as the perfect replica for Marianne to use in her painting.But getting the scale correct for such a large work is no easy matter. “With a large piece like this, I work from the top down,”Marianne said. “I couldn’t place the canvas on an easel, so I just kept the work area level in front of me.”
Prior to shipment, the Krizners had the painting professionally photographed in order to have prints made to be given to each of their six children: Douglas of Los Angeles; Richard of Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County; Thomas of Portland, Ore.; Ellen Warner of Brookeville, Md.; Lauren of Washington, D.C.; and Allison of San Francisco. “Because of its size, we don’t think any of our children would have the room to display it,” Marianne said. “And how does a parent choose which one of the six children would get it? If you leave it to one, then the others couldn’t enjoy it.”
While Marianne signs her paintings by using just her first name and the year painted, the museum will have a small placard listing the full name of the artist. While the painting has much sentimental value to Bob, he has no qualms about giving it away. “We have enjoyed it for 30 years and I think we will miss the painting equally,” he said. “We do consider it a family heirloom and it’s a nice legacy that someday our grandchildren or great-grandchildren can see this in a museum and realize it’s part of their family history.”
Bob never spoke much about his naval experiences to his children. For his 80th birthday, all six siblings collaborated to produce a moving video tribute to their father’s military days.
During an interview, Bob sat in front of the painting to tell his story of how he always wanted to be a Navy pilot dating to his high school days. He spoke of how he achieved his dream after years of education, training and dedicated military service. He recalled many of his comrades, some of whom lost their lives during training missions. Bob’s main aircraft, the Douglas AD Skyraider dive bomber, was produced too late to take part in World War II. It became the backbone of U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and Marine Corps strike aircraft sorties in the Korean War.
Bob retired in 1984 after 31 years of service from Johnstown Works, U.S. Steel as the superintendent of employee relations. Marianne was a stay-at-home mom for years before resuming her career as an English teacher at Our Mother of Sorrows Parochial School, where she also taught art from 1980-1995. She studied art in college and took private painting classes from such well-known local artists as Harriet Goff.