Artist Soldiers – Artistic Expression in the First World War
The First World War remade the world geopolitically and transformed how societies engage and relate to military conflict.
Artistic expression during the war contributed to this transformation. Before World War I, war art largely depicted heroic military leaders and romanticized battles, done long after the fact, far from the battlefield. The First World War marked a turning point with the appearance of artwork intended to capture the moment in a realistic way, by first-hand participants.
This exhibition examines this form of artistic expression from two complementary perspectives. One is professional artists who were recruited by the U.S. Army, serving in the AEF. They were the first true combat artists. The other is soldiers who created artwork. Their self-expression in the form of stone carvings in underground shelters, hidden away for a century, has been brought to light for the first time through the stunning photographs of photographer, artist, and explorer, Jeff Gusky. Together, these soldier works of art shed light on World War I in a compelling and very human way.
A collaboration between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of American History.