Prop Spotlight: Potter’s Paintings

Introduction

Near the end of Season Four, one of Colonel Potter’s hobbies was introduced: painting. In “The More I See You” he sets up his easel out in the open to a portrait of Radar and later, in his office, paints Klinger holding a discus (or, more accurately, a plate).

Colonel Potter Painting in The More I See You

Colonel Potter Painting in “The More I See You”

Over the next eight seasons he is seen painting numerous times, although occasionally the actual paintings are never shown. The question of who painted these paintings has intrigued M*A*S*H fans for decades. It was not actually Harry Morgan, although he obviously faked the act of painting many times. Nor was it Gary Burghoff, an accomplished wildlife artist (or, for that matter, Kellye Nakahara, an accomplished watercolor artist).

In January 1997, Larry Gelbart confirmed in a post to alt.tv.mash (the M*A*S*H Usenet group) that Burghoff was not the artist:

Potter’s paintings were not the work of Gary Burghoff. They were done by studio artisans.

Larry Gelbart

And in February 2002, he made a succinct post in response to a question about whether Harry Morgan actually painted the paintings:

>Just wondered if Harry Morgan reall DID paint them
>

No.

LG

So who did paint them? In March 1996, Michael Hirsh made the following post to about the identity of the artist responsible for the paintings:

The paintings were done by an artist hired by the MASH propmaster.

And in November 1997, Hirsch posted the following, again stating that the unidentified painter was hired by the M*A*S*H propmaster:

Leroy Nieman wouldn’t work for what the MASH propmaster would pay to have “Potter’s Paintings” painted. Getting those pictures painted was a fairly routine assignment for a Hollywood propmaster. While I don’t know who he hired, I’m reasonably certain there were any number of artists working in LA who would gladly have taken on the job.

MH

The actual artist (or artists, as the case may be) has never been identified.

Paintings Shown On Screen

In “The More I See You,” Potter is seen working on two paintings. First, he paints a portrait of Radar holding a medical bag:

Colonel Potter's Painting of Radar from The More I See You

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Radar from “The More I See You”

Later, he paints Klinger with a discus, mid-throw:

Colonel Potter's Painting of Klinger from The More I See You

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Klinger from “The More I See You”

In “Hawkeye Get Your Gun,” Potter paints Hawkeye with his feet up on a table, holding a drink:

Colonel Potter's Painting of Hawkeye from Hawkeye Get Your Gun

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Hawkeye from “Hawkeye Get Your Gun”

In “The Winchester Tapes,” Potter paints Charles with a rather angry expression on his face (“Don’t change the color of your face, I’m out of umber!”):

Colonel Potter's Painting of Charles from The Winchester Tapes

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Charles from “The Winchester Tapes”

In “They Call the Wind Korea,” Potter paints his own thumb:

Colonel Potter's Painting of His Thumb from They Call the Wind Korea

Colonel Potter’s Painting of His Thumb from “They Call the Wind Korea”

In “Depressing News,” Potter paints Hawkeye next to his tongue depressor monument:

Colonel Potter's Painting of Hawkeye from Depressing News

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Hawkeye from “Depressing News”

In “Rumor At The Top,” Potter paints a portrait of Father Mulcahy in his Catholic finery:

Colonel Potter's Painting of Father Mulcahy from Rumor At The Top

Colonel Potter’s Painting of Father Mulcahy from “Rumor At The Top”

In “Picture This,” Potter goes to great lengths to paint a group portrait:

Colonel Potter's Painting of The Cast from Picture This

Colonel Potter’s Painting of The Cast from “Picture This”

Paintings Not Shown on Screen

In “Dear Uncle Abdul,” Potter works on a self-portrait, using Klinger atop a horse as a body double (“Suck in that nose!”), planning to work in his own face at a later date. In “Heal Thyself,” while in bed, he works on an unidentified painting. And in “Bottom’s Up” he paints a United States president.

In “War Co-Respondent,” Aggie O’Shea and Potter discuss Potter’s paintings, including an incomplete painting of Sophie and his paintings of Radar, Klinger, his thumb, and Charles. Aggie asks Potter whether he has ever done a painting of B.J., to which Potter replies that he is not too good on teeth. At the end of the episode, Aggie sends Potter a drawing of B.J.

The Paintings in Potter’s Office

As they were created, the various paintings were hung in Potter’s office. His portrait of Radar was hung on the wall behind his desk for a while. It later later seen on the wall to the left of the doors into the office, above Klinger with the discus. Later, Radar was replaced by Potter’s thumb. The painting of Charles was added to the right side of the door. Klinger with the discus was later replaced by the painting of Charles, which itself was replaced by Hawkeye and his tongue depressor monument. His portrait of Father Mulcahy was later added to the wall below Charles.

At some point, all of the paintings were removed for reasons unknown. They are not present in any of the episodes actually produced for Season 11 but can be seen in episodes that were held over from Season 10.

Where Are They Now?

The current whereabouts of the paintings is not known. They were not sent to the Smithsonian in July 1983 for used in the “Binding Up the Wounds” exhibit (read more about the exhibit here). It is possible they were given to members of the cast or crew once production ended. None are known to have been auctioned off.

Published on March 14th, 2012
Last updated November 10th, 2013


64 Replies to “Prop Spotlight: Potter’s Paintings”

  1. Let’s suppose I have the original on-air Radar painting right in front of me…what would be the proper course of action at this time?

      1. Yes Please. If do really have one I’m am more than interested.
        To an avid fan anywhere in the world in which M*A*S*H has aired
        and that’s a big list big Dollar$.

    1. If you did then you would have to go to an art Gallery and they would contact someone who can authenticate it. I doubt it would bring a lot of money but maybe a few thousand at an Art Auction.

  2. My guess is whoever painted this people was under appreciated and one of the “invisible people” that big stars depend on.

  3. I would love to find these paintings. They are beautiful. While watching MASH, I often find myself admiring these paintings more so than actually watching the show. I was always so frustrated when they didn’t show the other paintings. I have spent time looking for the true artist for these paintings. I always felt it was sad that they never got the recognition the deserve. I believe these paintings should be in a museum. I of course would love one but I doubt it will happen. I just wish they preserved this paintings a little better.

  4. To anyone who owns a painting I am probably the biggest fan of the show ever. Would love to have an opportunity to acquire one of them. Hope someone out there realises how much something like this would mean to me. Thank you, take care.
    Graham

      1. Wow! That’s such a cool find! You got to meet Bill Christopher? May I ask if he was as nice in real life as he was on the show? He’s my favorite actor on the series! Would have loved to write him, but he passed before I even watched the show. 🙁

      2. I am literally watching the episode with Potter painting Radar(while he does his turtle impression)and Klinger with the diskis.Decided to look up who actually did the paintings and landed here.I miss my old t shirt I had that came out just after the series finale.The Mash 4077 Goodbye, Farewell and Amen shirt.I loved that thing.

  5. Dear Friend:

    I would certainly be interested in acquiring the Charles picture and we can certainly discuss the cost. Thank you very much.

  6. I heard tell that there was a fire on the set and most of the paintings were destroyed in that fire I just heard this from someone I do not know if it is true just wanted to let you know that’s what I heard.

  7. I have a painting of the Seine with the Eifel Tower in the background painted by H Morgan. can you tell me if Harry Morgam could have painted it ?

    1. NO Harry Morgan did not paint any of the paintings. They were painted by a prop artist hired by the producers.

  8. Now that that’s settled — Harry Morgan did NOT paint Col Potter’s paintings– lets look at the next rumor — Did Harry Morgan paint J.J ‘s paintings on “Good Times”?

  9. My husband and I are very interested in finding the painting in the episode “Picture This” where its the 6 of them in one painting. If anyone knows please message.

    1. The Teddy Roosevelt painting was in “Bottoms Up”. In “Heal Thyself”, Potter painted a horse with a live-in model as a hindquarters in the form of Winchester.

  10. This is awesome. I just stumbled in here. I had no idea there were still so many dedicated fans out there. This series was a significant part of my youth. I only have 5 seasons on DVD but watch them in a continuous loop when nothing else is on TV (which quite a lot of the time these days). Watching “They Call the Wind Korea as I type this.

    1. Welcome, Mark! This site is awesome, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it! Let me introduce myself…
      My name is JocularityGirl, I’m eighteen and I live in Texas.
      My username is based on Father Mulcahy’s catchphrase, because he’s my favorite character and William Christopher is my favorite actor on the show.
      My favorite episodes are “Nurse Doctor”, “Movie Tonight”, “A War for all Seasons” and any of the episodes with the hilarious Colonel Flagg!
      Just wanted to say hello and welcome!

  11. It would be wonderful idea to make prints for fans to own. Too bad the artist didn’t get credit. Still enjoy the show as much as ever.

  12. I just found this site! Sitting here watching M.A.S.H. 48-hr Marathon on Sundance Channel, my normal Sunday routine.
    I would have loved to own the painting of the cast together. I think it would have gone for a pretty good price, which considering the actual artist probably only got whatever scale was back then, it’s probably unfair.
    I was in Chicago on business the night the last show aired. I have never cut a business dinner short before, but I did that night. I got back to my hotel room just in time for the opening credits, thank goodness! I also had messages from my mother, daughter, ex-husband and secretary, reminding that the show was coming on and an hour earlier, Central Time. So funny that they knew I’d be crushed if I missed it!

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