By CHRISTIANA ROUSSEL
The walls of the Glick home are like a fine art gallery. One wall contains watercolors of places Nathan Glick was stationed: England, Egypt, North Africa, Romania, India and Italy. Another wall contains vivid paintings he completed after each family vacation with his wife, Esther, and their two daughters, Stephanie and Roseanne. His style is evident in each; one has to look at the dates to know they vary in age by decades.
Only a few months shy of turning 100 years old, Glick still paints.
Born in Leeds, Ala. in 1912, Glick had a natural affinity for art and illustration that he developed and refined through traditional schooling and real life experiences. As a boy, he used these gifts to create drawings from the stories his mother read to him, illustrations that would find their way to the Children’s Page of The Birmingham News when he was only six years old.
After completing high school in Montgomery at age 16, Glick traveled to New York and studied art for four years. Occasionally he would accompany his instructor, Eric Pape, to the Players Club where he met such performers as Charlie Chaplin and Basil Rathbone. His imagination let loose as he began to design costumes and stage sets. He spent an entire summer learning animal anatomy while working at the Museum of Natural History. His appetite for real-life learning has always been voracious, and he never turned down any opportunity to add skills to his repertoire.In the late 1930s, Glick returned to Montgomery, where his love for Alabama history began in earnest. He illustrated many books on the subject, including several textbooks. For one book he collaborated with Marie Bankhead Owen.
Owen would later became the director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History and commission Glick to design the monumental bronze doors for the Archives Building in Montgomery. These doors, still on display, contain scenes depicting eight events from Alabama history.
Glick’s work was not destined to to be stretched beyond Alabama state lines. As
World War II broke out, he was drawn into service as a topographical engineer assigned to the Ninth Air Force. His commanding officer, General Louis Brereton, had seen all the good press other branches of the military were receiving and thought that his Ninth Air Force should get some glory too. He called upon Glick to use his skills as a combat artist to help depict some of the battle scenes.
Headquartered in Cairo, Egypt, Glick began to interview fighter pilots and draw the images of war they described, just as he had done as a small child in Leeds listening to his mother’s voice.
His artwork was able to tell the stories of war in a language anyone could understand—visually. As a member of the military newspaper Stars & Stripes, he created a weekly cartoon series that depicted life on the front lines. He accompanied bomber pilots to see firsthand what havoc this war was wreaking on Europe. Astonishingly, on D-Day, he rode in a B-26 Bomber over Normandy.
“As a combat artist, I was expected to know what all the planes looked like– not only the American and British but the German ones too. I used a mix of charcoal, pencils and wash to create the scenes I saw and was briefed about.”
You can see the pride on Glick’s face as he talks about his brothers in war and shows me a book on his coffee table, Pioneer Mustangs: The 354th Fighter Group. The book is filled with photographs of pilots, tales of their exploits, and many renderings created by Glick. His memory is as sharp as ever as I flip through the pages; each time I pause, he can tell me in riveting detail about the subject pictured.
Glick never fumbles for a name or place. Like the artwork itself, each is permanently etched in his mind.
“I followed these men from Omaha Beach, through France and all the way to the Battle of the Bulge. It was there the military thought I was missing in action. But, once I was located, they told me I was the last remaining man of my cadre and was to be sent home. I rode in an Army Jeep all the way from the Battle of the Bulge to Paris. I will never forget that first night’s sleep in Paris, warm and finally comfortable. From there I was transported to Glasgow where I rode the Queen Elizabeth (ship) home, along with more than 350 amputees whose extremities had been frozen in battle.”
When asked what he attributes his longevity to, Glick stopped, thought for a while then said with a smile: “Well, I’d say the number one thing would be I have a very content marriage. I also always enjoyed my schooling and learning new things. And finally, I’d guess I’d have to say that I just really enjoy people.