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Fall 2004 Bruin Walk

Witness to history

Renown courtroom artist David Rose

Illustration of Patty Hearst
Illustration of the notorious Nazi Gestapo chief

Photograph by Long Beach
Press-Telegram

Illustrations by David Rose, from the
Charles E. Young Research Library
Department of Special Collections

To a horror-stricken world, Klaus Barbie was the “Butcher of Lyon.” In the hands of the renowned courtroom artist David Rose, the notorious Nazi Gestapo chief (bottom right) was a frail old man with hollow eyes that stared blankly.

“I see something private and protective in his face — like he doesn’t want to reveal himself,” says Rose, peering at a sketch he made in 1987 during Barbie’s trial for war crimes at the Palais de Justice in Lyon, France.

Now 94 years old, Rose made his last courtroom sketch in 1996 at the Tel Aviv trial of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir. In Rose’s day, this jovial and hard-working son of Polish immigrants was among the best courtroom artists in the business.

Rose’s sketchpad and colored pencils captured images in courtrooms where cameras were not allowed. His first assignment, for NBC, took him to federal court in Los Angeles for the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg. Over the next quarter-century, the artist sketched a rogue’s gallery of faces that evoke the social and political turbulence of the era. Among them were Patty Hearst (center right), Huey Newton, Rodney King, Roman Polanski, John DeLorean and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.

“Hell was going on and it all came to a head in the courtroom,” remarks Rose, whose clients included ABC, CBS, CNN, the Associated Press and Reuters.

Rose thrived under the brutal pressure of daily deadlines. Pencils protruding from his shirt pockets and between his fingers, he worked on as many as five drawings at a time. His pencil flew across the paper, recording only the details necessary to tell the story. “I was made for this work,” says Rose. “You get four to five hours to work on something, you fuss it up.”

For many years, Rose stored his renderings in a spare bedroom at his Hollywood home. Recently, he donated the bulk of the collection — more than 700 drawings — to UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library, where it is available for public viewing in the Department of Special Collections.

Rose studied French at UCLA Extension in preparation for the Barbie trial, but his primary connection to the campus comes through his wife, Ida, who died in 1992. An artist herself, Ida graduated from UCLA in the late 1930s and went on to teach art at Fairfax High.

by Anne Burke


2005 The Regents of the University of California