Prior to World War I, artists usually painted portraits of military leaders or depicted military events after the fact. This exhibit showcases the talents of both professional and amateur artists who, for the first time ever, were allowed to capture the realities of life on the front lines.
What will I see? On display is the work of eight famous professional artists who served in the U.S. Army and were embedded with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in France with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in early 1918. These artists gave glimpses beyond the battlefield and captured various activities of American soldiers–everyday chores, troop feedings, personal time, entertainment and comraderie–so Americans back home could better understand what soldiers were experiencing on a daily basis. Additionally, they also captured new technologies, such as the tanks and airplanes, as well.
The amateur artists work on display was recently discovered by photographer Jeff Gusky, who recently found the long forgotten stone carvings of WWI soldiers in their underground living quarters. You will be moved by the raw talent and moving depictions hewn into the limestone caves by the soldiers who received brief respite from the war raging above them. For example, soldiers carved patriotic, religious and personal images, such as portraits or sports-themes. In fact, one Boston Red Sox fan memorialized the team’s triumphant 7-4 victory over their chief rival, the New York Yankees.
How can I visit? The National Air and Space Museum is located at Independence Avenue, SW and 6th Street on the National Mall near our Washington DC hotel. Air & Space Museum is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and admission is free!