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Army Art of World War I

Photograph: J. Andre SmithJ. Andre Smith

J. Andre Smith, born in Hong Kong, was the son of a sea captain and shipbuilder. After his father's death in 1887 the family lived for a few years in Hamburg, Germany, and then moved permanently to New York City. In 1898 he entered Cornell to major in architecture. He received a degree in architecture in 1902, went on to earn a master of science degree in the subject in 1904, and then spent two years in Europe on a Traveling Fellowship from Cornell.

Upon his return from Europe Smith worked for an architectural firm in New York City and pursued etching and drawing in his spare time. He developed the ability to work quickly and preferred to finish a piece in one sitting (he produced more pieces of art during the war than any of his fellow official artists). In addition to his success as an etcher he spent time in Europe studying art where he produced some moody and gloomy experimental work.

Shortly after the United States entered the war Smith underwent officer training and became a first lieutenant in the Engineer Reserve Corps. He was soon promoted to captain and called to active duty as an artist. Since he was the only one of the artists with any military training, he was designated the senior officer of the group. Although his architectural background enabled him to produce detailed pictures of buildings, he also drew upon his skills as an artist to produce disquieting and somber images of the war. He returned to etching after his discharge and published In France with the American Expeditionary Forces, an illustrated volume of his work.

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