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Army Art of World War I


The American experience in World War I has been largely overlooked as other wars have cast their shadows across the twentieth century. The traditional commemorative anniversaries found the nation preoccupied with other wars: in 1943, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of World War I, the United States was in the midst of World War II; in 1968 the war in Vietnam discouraged a fiftieth anniversary commemoration of the Great War. In 1992, however, a nation at peace can appropriately recognize the seventy-fifth anniversary of America's entry into World War I. In commemoration of that milestone the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History present this print set featuring the work of the eight artists officially commissioned to cover the activities of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in Europe.

The collection of art from which these prints were selected represents a milestone in recording the history of war. For the first time artists were specifically commissioned to produce images of the battlefield during the fighting. The art itself became a propaganda weapon intended to increase popular support of the war. The depictions of subjects such as barbed wire, machine guns, gas attacks, and the vast logistical support systems that resulted from the industrialization of the war are a far cry from the knightly images of the Middle Ages or the supposed glory of the Napoleonic era.

In assembling this print set a team of historians, art curators, and printing specialists from the Center of Military History and the National Museum of American History selected two paintings by each artist. They considered the quality, content, and clarity of the artwork, and attempted to provide a representative sample of the diversity of activities of the AEF during the hostilities and of the artists' subjects. The sixteen prints in this set commemorate the sacrifices made by all those who served the American nation in World War I.

Director, National Museum
of American History

Brigadier General, USA
Chief of Military History

Washington, D.C., 1992