Art from the Trenches: America's Uniformed Artists in World War I (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History, Volume 20)
Alfred Emile Cornebise
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Since ancient times, wars have inspired artists and their patrons to commemorate victories. When the United States finally entered World War I, American artists and illustrators were commissioned to paint and draw it. These artists’ commissions, however, were as captains for their patron: the U.S. Army. The eight men—William J. Aylward, Walter J. Duncan, Harvey T. Dunn, George M. Harding, Wallace Morgan, Ernest C. Peixotto, J. Andre Smith, and Harry E. Townsent—arrived in France early in 1918 with the American Expeditionary forces (AEF). Alfred Emile Cornebise presents here the first comprehensive account of the U.S. Army art program in World War I. The AEF artists saw their role as one of preserving images of the entire aspect of American involvement in a way that photography could not. Unsure of what to do with these official artists, AEF leadership in France issues passes that allowed them relative freedom to move about, sketching as they went and finding supplies and lodgings where they could. But the bureaucratic confusion over the artists’ mission soon created controversy in Washington. The army brass there was dismayed at the slow trickle of art coming in and at some of the bucolic, behind-the-lines scenes, which held little promise as dramatic magazine illustrations or propaganda. The Armistice came only a matter of months after the American Artists arrived in France, and they marched into the Rhineland with the American occupation forces, sketching along the way. Soon returning to France the artists went into separate studios to finish their works, but the army hurriedly discharged them and they were civilian artists once more. The author conducted research for this book in the World War I army records in the National Archives, as well as the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, and others throughout the country. The sixty-six black-and-white pictures reproduced here are some of the approximately five hundred pieces of official AEF combat art, which shortly after the war were turned over to the Smithsonian Institution, where most of them remain.
drawing the men in billets and trenches and the general movement of troops, while the second recorded the activities of the AEF in general, from the ports of debarkation, through the Services of Supply, and to and including the fighting front. To be sure, as time elapsed, there was considerable blurring of the lines between the two groups, and their pictures do not fall easily into the two categories. The artists naturally had to spend some time in more or less informal training and orientation.
Commission to Negotiate Peace was in no way associated with the army. Though Stone gave Peixotto a letter of introduction to the secretary of the American Commission, nothing came of the effort.44 Afterward, in 1923, though he was back in America, Peixotto became associated with the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts, the successor of the AEF;s Bellevue art school. In that year, the French government, through its Ministry of Fine Arts, transformed a wing of the Palais de Fontainebleau into studios
study by Meirion Harries and Susie Harries, The War Artists: British Official War Art of the Twentieth Century (London: Michael Joseph in Association with the Imperial War Museum and the Tate Gallery, 1983). Ibid., p. 2. Gallatin, Art and the Great War, pp. 133, 135. Ibid., p. 143. Kimberly Keefer, 'The Art of Henry Farre," American History Illustrated 17, no. 5 (Sept., 1982): 30-31. Gallatin, Art and the Great War, pp. 225-27. For poster art, see Martin Hardie and Arthur K. Sabin, eds v War
A. Hutchinson, in "American Prints of the Year" [Fine Prints of the Year 11 : 18). J. Andre Smith, Art and the Subconscious: A Book of Drawings by Andre Smith (Maitland, Fla.: The Research Studio, 1937). "Andre Smith, 1880-1959," MPL, p. 4 ; and frames 416-17, Roll N108, collection, "Prints Division, NYPL," AAA/NPG. The Research Studio was sometimes referred to as "An Insanitorium of Art." See Smith's "An Insanitorium of Art," Art Instruction 3, no. 9 (Nov., 1939): 14-15, 28. The Maitland
de C. Ravenel to Prof. W. H. Holmes, Director, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, July 19, 1919, in file, "Accession No. 64592, Office of the Registrar," Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. (cited hereafter as file, "Accession No. 64592.") See letter of acceptance from W. de C. Ravenel to Col. C. W. Weeks, Washington, D C , July 19, 1919, and other relevant letters in this file. 4. See catalog in file "Accession No. 64592." 5. Only Ay 1ward's work, for unknown reasons, was