By Ray Lebron, Museum Docent
Charles H. Waterhouse, Artist in Residence, Colonel, USMCR
Charles H. Waterhouse was an American painter, illustrator, and sculptor renowned for using United States Marine Corps historical themes as the motif for his works. Throughout his career, he created over 500 pieces for the Marine Corps Art Collection.
Waterhouse enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 and was on the first wave landing on Iwo Jima with the 5 th Marine Division. During the battle, he was severely wounded but fortunately continued to have a remarkable career as an artist.
After the war, Waterhouse formally studied art. Upon graduating in 1950, Waterhouse became a sought-after illustrator, with his work appearing in hundreds of books, magazines, and publications. In 1966, the Society of Illustrators began sending artists to Vietnam and Waterhouse volunteered.
His research was always meticulous as to accuracy of detail. He had a penchant for horses and dogs in his works. Whenever possible and appropriate, he would add animals to his works (as seen in several of his paintings in the MCRD Museum Art Gallery).
Horse Marines (December 1846), Charles Waterhouse, Colonel, USMCR
Landing at Monterey (7 July 1846), Charles Waterhouse, Colonel, USMCR
In 1971 Waterhouse received a commission as a major in the reserves to create 14 salon-size paintings depicting the Marines in the Revolution for the U.S. Bicentennial that was approaching. The Marine Corps wanted an artist whose forte was historical accuracy. He became the “Artist in Residence” for the Marine Corps Historical Division. His paintings about Marines were of the highest quality and whenever Headquarters Marine Corps needed an important specific pictorial assignment, they called on him. His final contribution for the Marines in Revolution was 14 major paintings, 70 finished drawings, and four smaller paintings which rounded out the collection.
He served in the Marines for a total of 21 years of service which included his time during WWII. Waterhouse’s work can be seen in museums, federal buildings, and historical sites around the country. The paintings featured in the MCRD Museum’s Art Gallery are from the series, “Marines in the Conquest of California,” and are on loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Students visiting the museum on a field trip learn how to analyze Col Waterhouse's paintings for historical clues as part of the Museum Education Program.
Ray Lebron is a Marine Corps veteran and a docent at the MCRD Command Museum. He is an active volunteer in his community and enjoys educating others about Marine Corps History.