The second part of Doug Patteson's piece on the Agency's unique and largely unseen art collection.
The Operational Collection
The Operational Collection includes intelligence-themed paintings and sculptures that record the experiences of intelligence officers in both peace and wartime. The Agency uses these artworks to strengthen and communicate its identity and corporate culture, providing a link for incoming officers to connect to the history of the organization.
As of 2016, 22 paintings graced the hallways of CIA’s Headquarters complex, most of them in the ground floor hallways on OHB and NHB. 21 of them are action scenes, and one is a still life. The idea for an intelligence gallery conveying the operational history of Agency operations was born in 2000, when Erik Kirzinger, a civilian, attended the annual Memorial Service and listened to Director Tenet share the stories of those whose service was only then being recognized. After a 2002 employee art exhibit, the 7th floor began to get behind the project in earnest.
The paintings are by 8 artists, 6 male and two female. Two artists, Dru Blair with 6 paintings, and Keith Woodcock, with 5, represent over half of the paintings. Two of the paintings are by an undercover officer, acknowledged on the Agency’s website as Deborah D., her pieces among the more recent acquisitions. Most of these pieces have been donated by the owners, although several have been commissioned by offices within the Agency to convey a specific piece of that Directorate or Office’s operational heritage. Many of the donors have personal connections to the Agency, some of them children of former Agency officers and contractors.
14 of the paintings can currently be seen on CIA.gov. Another 6 or so can be found on line on artist web pages or various news stories. The last couple, you have to really dig for to find…
In future articles, we will display an image of each of the paintings and a blurb about the history behind the tale. I will touch here upon two, one well known image from the Agency’s genesis in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and another, from a more recent famous success in the Agency’s history.
"Les Marguerites Fleuriront ce Soir" was painted by Jeffrey W. Bass in 2006 and was donated by Richard J. Guggenhime. It is oil on canvas and portrays a then 35-year-old Virginia Hall in the Haute Loire region of France in 1944. Hall, previously a member of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), had recently joined the Office of Strategic Services as a radio operator and had returned to occupied France. Well known to, and actively hunted by the Nazi Gestapo, Hall was a very effective OSS operative. In the painting she is seen transmitting a message on her suitcase radio while her partner powers the radio’s generator using a bicycle crank. Hall would receive the Distinguished Service Cross for her efforts against the Germans and would continue to serve her nation for many years in the CIA.
The name of the painting, "Les Marguerites Fleuriront ce Soir" means “The daisies will bloom at night” and is a reference to the coded messages she would transmit and receive from London.
ARGO, The Rescue of the Canadian Six was painted by CIA officer Deborah D. and unveiled in March of 2014 on the 33rd anniversary of the operation that became known as “The Canadian Caper”. After the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, 6 American officers escaped and made their way to the Canadian ambassador’s residence, where they would remain for 79 days. The painting, commissioned by the Directorate of Science and Technology (DST) depicts two officers preparing alias documents to be used in the exfiltration operation. It pays homage to the often unsung role of the tech officers who enable the success of so many operations worldwide.
Below is a list of the currently known paintings in the collection, as well as the artist’s names:
- A Contingency for Every Action - James Dietz
- Ambush in Manchuria - Dru Blair
- An Air Combat First - Keith Woodcock
- Argo - The Rescue of the Canadian Six - Deborah D
- Cast of a Few, Courage of a Nation - James Dietz
- Continental Air Service's Pilatus Turbo Porter Landing Upcountry in Laos 1969 - Keith Woodcock
- Earthquake's Final Flight - Jeffrey Bass
- First Sting - Stuart Brown
- Irrawaddy Ambush - Stuart Brown
- Khampa Airlift to Tibet, November 1959 - Dru Blair
- Les Marguerites Fleuriront ce Soir - Jeffrey Bass
- Lobo One - Jeffrey Bass
- Message From Moscow - Deborah D
- Peacekeeper - Dru Blair
- Piercing the Curtain – Dru Blair
- Seven Days in the Arctic - Keith Woodcock
- The Airmen's Bond - Keith Woodcock
- The Secret PLA Pouch Heads for CIA's K Building - Keith Woodcock
- Tolkachev: Quiet Courage - Kathy Fieramosca
- Untouchable - Dru Blair
- Upcountry Meeting - Dru Blair
- We are Limited only by our Imagination - Gareth Hector
Statuary and Models
Not all the art is on the walls. There are sculptures and models as well. The best known are the statue of Nathan Hale between the Bubble and entrance to OHB, General Donovan’s statue inside the OHB lobby and Kryptos, inside the NHB courtyard, but there are others.
These three are in the NHB atrium, below the overhanging models of the U-2, A-12 Oxcart and D-21 reconnaissance aircraft.
The Day the Wall Came Down is a ¼ size bronze by Veryl Goodnight. It portrays a herd of horses bursting through the Berlin Wall, which is covered with slogans relevant to the Agency’s employees, and a star, to remind us of the foreign agents whose lives have been lost in our nation’s service.
Windwalker, a 48 inch bronze by Kitty Cantrell, portrays an eagle, representing vigilance, alertness, strength, courage and freedom. It was donated by a family of immigrants to the US whose company contributed to the building of NHB and whose children had served in the Agency as well. They wanted to recognize “the courageous work of those who serve the CIA, acknowledging that, through this work, the Agency helps protect citizens of the United States and the immigrants who look to this country as the land of opportunity.”
Intrepid, a 22 inch bronze by Leo Mol, portrays Sir William Stephenson (code-named "Intrepid"). Stephenson was the key liaison officer between US and the British intelligence services in World War II and highly regarded by the Americans who worked with him. In 1946, General Donovan awarded Sir William the Medal for Merit, the highest civilian decoration awarded by the United States (and never before awarded to a foreigner).
Kirzinger, is the nephew of an Agency contractor who was killed on a mission in 1952. Erik became the driving force behind the collection’s genesis and throughout its first 10 years of existence. He developed the vision for the project and even scoped the initial project concepts. He also connected artists and donors with the Agency. In 2010, the Agency honored him for his work on the project by presenting him the Agency Seal Medal, as had been done with Melzac in 1982. His efforts brought the first 18 completed paintings in to the collection, after which the Agency brought the whole effort in house.
He has since produced a series of calendars and day planners displaying the paintings and conveying the history of the operations they portray. A coffee table book is in the works as well. Sadly, the Agency store refuses to carry the calendars and planners for unknown reasons.
The Operational art program is ongoing still, and we hope to read of, and see, future paintings portraying Agency successes around the globe. If you are fortunate enough to visit HQS and see the artwork, stop in the gift shop. Occasionally you will find limited edition prints on sale there, and a few other items with some of the artwork on it.