March 11, 2019




MADISON, Wis. (March 11, 2019) – On Friday, March 15th, Wisconsin Veterans Museum visitors will have the opportunity to view the artwork of Harold F. Schmitz in the new art exhibit, In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz.  The exhibit illustrates the environment and a precise timeline of Schmitz’s military experience while stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.

In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz opens to the public at 9 a.m. on March 15, 2019

“Viewers of this exhibit will witness the fascinating evolution of an artist influenced by an alien but beautiful environment and his work as an wartime Army cartographer,” said Michael Telzrow, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director. “In My Spare Moments is an engaging exhibit that encourages the viewer to enter the world of an artist navigating the demands of Army service far from home.”

In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz

 In 1937, Harold F. Schmitz earned a degree in advertising design from the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee. The Hammersmith-Kortmeyer Company hired him for an entry-level position. With the beginning of WWII, Harold was drafted in 1942 and handpicked for the role of map maker with the 955th Topographic Engineer Company.

In My Spare Moments features Harold F. Schmitz’s collection of artwork, handwritten letters, and an oral history that identifies a precise timeline of his military experience and reflects the stages of a multi-year deployment. Completed during his time in the South Pacific, these featured drawings are the lens through which we view Harold’s spare moments that inspired him to draw.

Harold returned home from deployment on October 2, 1945, and was discharged from the military on October 10, 1945. He married Eleonor Hammersmith and spent 33 years as an art director at Northwestern Publishing House. Harold passed away on June 22, 2013.

In this exhibit, visitors will view more than 40 original drawings, hear Harold’s oral history, see photographs from his scrapbook, and read quotes from the letters in his collection. Thanks to the donation of the collection by Harold’s daughter, Linda Devitt, and her time assisting with curatorial research, museum visitors will view an extensive look at a Milwaukee veteran’s artwork spanning an incredible timeline. 

Artwork Highlights

  • With the beginning of World War II, Harold was drafted in 1942 and handpicked for the role of mapmaker with the 955th Topographic Engineer Company, whose role in the Army was to make maps from aerial photographs. Several maps that Harold drew with the 955th are on exhibit, as well as examples of equipment that topographic draftsmen and geodetic platoons used during the war.
  • “Lots of Interesting Things” While waiting for assignment at the newly established military staging area, in New Caledonia, the men of the 955th had a few days to explore the city. Harold enjoyed this time to draw structures and landscapes that intrigued him. In the exhibit, there are two drawings of the cathedral at Noumea Harbor, one of them is drawn on Army stationery.
  • Snaps” In his letters home, Harold often described what he was drawing. On September 10, 1943, he discussed drawings from snap-shot photographs or “snaps.” Four originals are exhibited as well as five large-format reproductions of the “snaps” drawings.
  • “A Skilled Observer” Harold was attached for overseas deployment to the 13th Air Force and shipped overseas on November 3, 1942. During this campaign, he served in New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Northern Solomon Islands, Southern Philippines, and Luzon. While there, Harold established himself as a skilled observer and created exploratory drawings of his favorite architecture, trees, cars, planes, and the Hollywood starlet. On exhibit are four drawings the artist did in 1937 placed beside two drawings he did in the South Pacific in 1942 and 1943. They reveal the evolution of the artist’s hand.

Audio Recordings

  • Before Harold died in 2013, his daughter, Linda (Schmitz) Devitt was able to record his oral history. In a small, reflective space that features the last drawings Harold completed, both in service and in life, audiences can listen to Harold talk about his drawings in his own words. 

Be Certain Not to Miss

  • The quotes from Harold’s letters and oral history transcript placed throughout the gallery.
  • The large format reproduction of one of Harold’s drawings, photographs documenting his experience visiting a local mission, and its residents off of the island of Espiritu Santo. Harold described this day as, “One of the most interesting days I’ve spent since being here.”

Hours, Location, Web Address

  • The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, March 15, 2019, and will be on exhibit through the summer of 2020.
  • Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday (April-September). Museum closed during state holidays and Easter.
  • Entrance is free.
  • The museum is located at 30 W. Mifflin St., directly across from the State Capitol.
  • The museum’s website is
  • Media Contact: Karen Burch, Senior Marketing Specialist (608) 264-6086 

About the Wisconsin Veterans Museum

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum dates to 1901 when it was established as the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall in the Wisconsin Capitol. It is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate since 2014, one of only three in Wisconsin, which gives it access to the Smithsonian’s unparalleled collections and scholarship. For more on the museum’s exhibits, collections, and events, log on to


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MEDIA CONTACT: Karen Burch | WVM Senior Marketing Specialist |608-264-6086 |

Wisconsin Veterans Museum · 30 West Mifflin Street, Madison, WI 53703