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Army Art of World War I

Photograph: Ernest Clifford PeixottoErnest Clifford Peixotto

Ernest Clifford Peixotto received a public school education and studied painting at the School of Fine Arts at the Mark Hopkins Institute in his hometown of San Francisco. In 1888 he entered the Atelier Julien in Paris and spent a number of years touring and sketching the French countryside. From 1897 to 1899 he lived in New York City working for Scribner's and Harper's.

In 1899 he returned to France and established a studio near Fontainbleau which he used for many years. During the years he lived in France he traveled extensively in Europe and to North and South America writing and illustrating books and articles on his adventures. He also became well known as a muralist, decorating rooms in the United States and Europe. When the war began in 1914 Peixotto initially joined the local defense group, but in October he returned to the United States.

Although his age (he was the oldest of the eight artists) prevented him from entering active military service, his experience living and working in France and his fluency in French made him a natural choice as an Army artist. Considered the painter among the eight official artists, most of whom were illustrators, Peixotto combined his talent and his knowledge of France before the war to produce a body of work that captures the widespread destruction caused by the weapons of modern warfare. He also uses the small towns of the French countryside as background in many of his paintings. At the close of the war he was assigned as director of the AEF Art Training Center at Bellevue, France, for a short time before he returned to the United States in 1919.

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