Joseph Farris Hill 578, France, November 1944, Watercolor on paper

Joseph Farris Hill 578, France, November 1944, Watercolor on paper

A Soldier’s Life in Color

Monday, March 14, 2016

Finding time, something we all wish we could do when it comes to a favorite hobby or activity. Joseph Farris found time to sketch and paint throughout the battles of World War II.  He was able to recollect many of the battle scenes in a sketch book after many hours of fighting.

Farris who is most notably known for his cartoon drawings in The New Yorker was born into a Lebanese American family 1924 in Newark, New Jersey and resided there until he was six years old. He and his family moved to Danbury, Connecticut and opened a grocery and candy store, the Danbury Confectionery. It was at the store where his love for drawing began, he was noted saying that he would watch his farther “artfully arranging fruit in the front window.” He began to show promising skills and at the age of 13 he began taking art classes that were being taught by the well-known cartoonist Richard Taylor.

Unfortunately by the time Farris turned 18 World War II began. He enlisted and was bound for the front lines of Europe serving about 34 months. Farris describes that he was actually fortunate enough to be in the Infantry Division due to being issued a Jeep which allowed him to hide his art supplies in the compartments. Much of his battle scenes are painted with stark and rustic colors, bold reds and browns, also pointing out no leaves were ever painted on trees. He describes his war paintings and drawings as New Yorker cartoons just set in a war zone, using the same style as he would in the future for his cartoons. The Hill 578 is described as his most important in his war collection because it was his first battle. This painting and hundreds of other works can be seen his book A Soldiers Sketchbook: Illustrated Memoir from the Front Lines of World War II, which was published in 2011 with much persistence from his family members.

After the war Farris was able to continue his studies of art using his G.I. Bill and sold his first painting at the age of 23. He began contributing his work to The New Yorker in 1957 and became a contracted artist for them in the early 70’s. Throughout the years he created covers for Barron’s, Harvard Magazine, and ABA Journal. Besides creating covers he become a published author for the books; Phobias and Therapies, Money Inc, and many others. Much of his work was shown in the Kerpeles Museum in Newburg, NY. The exhibition consisted of about 75 cartoons and over 70 paintings. Farris’s work can be seen in the permanent collection of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT and the U.S. Army Women’s Museum in FT. Lee, VA. There are also celebrated people who were noted as owning his work in their own private collections; former president Jimmy Carter and actor Paul Newman were fans of his art.

In January 2015 Joseph Farris passed away, he will be remembered for his cartoons at The New Yorker and his watercolor’s representing the time he served in World War II.

—Michelle Maroney


Michelle Maroney graduated from D’Youville College with her Bachelors in History, Masters in Adolescent Education. She is currently in the Museum Studies program and Buffalo State College. In her free time she enjoys running and reading books about history.