In a departure from the normal girlie nose art, S/Sgt Sarkis Bartigian created this amazing collection of cartoon characters to enliven the side of this B24 Liberator. Whether or not this mass of colourful characters was repeated on the other side of the aircraft is not known but yet again Sgt Bartigian managed to create a unique piece of art. While popular characters were often lifted from their page and used as nose art, so many placed together on a single aircraft is almost unique. Donald Duck, Popeye, Minnie, Cat Woman, Lil Henry are all there with several other favourites of the time.
Sgt Sarkis Bartigian has been described by some as the "greatest painter of nose art of all time" and by others as "the Michelangelo of WWII aviation art.". His imagination and skill with paint was certainly exceptional and he was perhaps unique in seeing the side, indeed the whole, of a B24 as his potential "canvas." Working during the closing months of the war and in the isolation of the vast Pacific Ocean enabled his imagination to run wild. His creations stretched the entire length of the aircraft in some cases, from nose turret to tail gunner's position. They were enormous works of art which would have stretched any artist working under ideal conditions let alone the windy, sand-strewn wastes of the barren airfield on Ie Shima.
He had joined the USAAF at the age of 36 or 37 having studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and subsequently worked as a commercial artist painting murals for restaurants and movie theatre marquees. Shortly after entering the service he married Mabel -- who became the subject of another of his impressive works of art, i.e. "Mabel's Labels". A portrait of his beautiful bride adorned one the 43rd Bomb Group's B24s together with several nudes and sets of strategically positioned red lips.
When deploying to the Philippines, Bartigian passed the time by decorating the captain's quarters. Sadly, having survived the war and returned home to Mabel, Sarkis Bartigian was killed in a motor accident in 1955, aged only 49. A sad loss indeed. It is not hard to believe that such a talented man would not have further honed his skills to become a painter of repute.
The bombers he painted were “Cocktail Hour”, “It Ain’t So Funny”, “Mabel’s Labels”, “Michigan”, and the legendary “A Dragon and His Tail.”
The other masterpiece, and unique artpiece among B 24s, The Dragon and His Tail, was featured here a couple years ago, when I had no idea about the artist, but go back and take a look at the incredible full airplane length art http://justacarguy.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-unique-airplane-not-just-piece-of.html
Life magazine went to the Arizona scrapyard and took these nose in the air photos