Naval Air Battle, WWII

Accession number:

James Milton Sessions

Historical period:
ca. 1945

Miltary branch:

Wars and Conflicts:


H x W: 11 in. / 14 in.

Acquisition date:
ca. 2004

Credit line:
Gift of C. Joseph Bowdring, in memory of the Shaw family



From ca. 2004
The Army and Navy Club, gift of C. Joseph Bowdring


Artist James Sessions was a master watercolorist, probably best known as a painter of marine subjects, from the Bahamas and New England’s fishing harbors to the fishing grounds of Nova Scotia. He also painted scenes of the Navajo reservations in New Mexico.

Sessions is also considered to be the greatest "brush reporter" of World War II. His works can be found in Presidential collections, numerous important corporate collections, and military institutions throughout the country. His works document important World War II historical events, conveying the spirit of the American fighting forces in both the Pacific and European campaigns as few artists ever captured. He depicted many events—most for the Chicago Tribune—including the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the D-Day invasion, and phases of the Pacific war, including Jimmy Doolittle's 1942 daylight bombing raids of the Japanese mainland and the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military.

The energy and immediacy of Sessions’ line work in this unspecified Naval battle conveys the violence, chaos, and destruction of armed conflict amidst the roiling sea. The smoke-blackened sky is pierced by the blazing fires of decimated battleships in the distance. While it was not drawn from life, its directionality, movement, and skewed perspective elicit an urgency that feels undeniably in the moment, putting the viewer at the center of the chaos.

Throughout the war, Sessions also created numerous wartime advertisements. Examples include a 1943 Willys Jeep ad showing the Coast Guard at Guadalcanal, and a Borg-Warner ad in 1945 showing the mass production of radiators and clutches manufactured in Detroit for motorized warfare.

Sessions served in the Illinois Naval Reserve during World War I.