At 95 years old, Ed Vebell could be ready to slow down.
The Westport artist has had quite a life. Here’s a quick summary:
During World War II he was an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes newspaper. He’d be dropped off at a battle scene, told to find a story, then picked up 3 days later.
After the war, he worked for French magazines (and covered the Nuremberg war trials). When she was 18, Grace Kelly posed for Ed. His first girlfriend was a star of the the Folies Bergère.
Back in the States, he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.
Ed designed US stamps — some with military themes, some not.
Oh yeah: He reached the semifinals of the 1952 Olympics, representing our country in fencing.
As I said, 95-year-old Ed Vebell could be slowing down.
He’s not. His latest project is selling his vast collection of uniforms.
They sprawl throughout the wonderful studio in his Compo Beach home, and in several other rooms. There are Revolutionary and Civil War uniforms, German helmets and Franco-Prussian gear. Buffalo Bill Cody’s hat is there too, in a bathtub surrounded by tons of other stuff.
He would have even more. But Hurricane Sandy wiped out his basement.
Ed’s collection began years ago. He could rent a uniform for $15. But for just $10 more, he could buy it. That made sense; he had so much work, he needed plenty of uniforms.
So why is he selling?
“I’m 95,” he says simply. “I can’t keep them forever.”
Two auctions have already been held. He’s talking to more auction houses, and individual buyers too.
He knows each item. He points with pride to his Native American collection of bonnets, saddles and war shirts. He knows the differences between every tribe.
For years, he was hired for illustrations by editors out West. Why not use an artist closer by? he asked.
“We trust you,” they said.
The Civil War holds a special place in Ed’s heart. Years ago, he staged entire battle scenes in a Weston field. Models wore Yankee and rebel uniforms. Ed took photos, and worked from them.
He did the same with cowboys and Indians. “Those were great shows,” he recalls. “We had horses, riders, muskets and tomahawks. We entertained the whole neighborhood.”
It may be time to sell all those uniforms. But that’s not Ed’s only project.
At 95, he’s just finished two more picture books.
So now he’s looking around for his next one.