American official war artists

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American official war artists have been part of the American military since 1917. Artists are unlike the objective camera lens which records only a single instant and no more. The war artist captures instantaneous action and conflates earlier moments of the same scene within one compelling image.[1]


In World War I, eight artists commissioned as captains in the U.S. Corps of Engineers. These men were sent to Europe to record the activities of the American Expeditionary Forces.[3]

In 1941, the Navy Combat Art Program was founded in order to ensure that competent artists would be present at the scene of history-making events. Eight active duty artists developed a record of all phases of World War II; and all major naval operations have been depicted by Navy artists. During the Korean War, the program was revived with two military artists in combat contexts. Since then, artists have been sent to other combat zones, including the Persian Gulf.[1]

The U.S. Army War Art Unit was established in late 1942; and by the spring of 1943, 42 artists were selected. In May 1943, Congress withdrew funding the unit was inactivated.[3]

The Army's Vietnam Combat Art Program was started in 1966. Teams of soldier-artists created pictorial accounts and interpretations for the annals of army military history. These teams of five soldier-artists typically spent 60 days of temporary duty (TDY) in Vietnam embedded with various units. The U. S. Army Center of Military History (CMH) currently includes an Army Art Collection with about 40 representative war artists.[4]

In 1992, the Army Staff Artist Program was attached to the United States Army Center of Military History. Army artists are a permanent part of the Museum Division's Collections Branch.[3]

There are significant differences in the artwork created by the branches of the U.S. military:


Rice distribution at Carrefour in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. Oil sketch by Sgt. Kristopher Battles, USMC

Military art and the work of American military artists includes both peacetime and wartime. For example, USMC combat artist Kristopher Battles deployed with American forces in Haiti to provide humanitarian relief as part of Operation Unified Response after the disastrous earthquake in 2010.[5]

Select artists

World War I

World War II

Vietnam Era

Soldier Artist Participants in the U. S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists Program

Recent conflicts

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC), Navy Combat Art Program
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kino, Carol. "With Sketchpads and Guns, Semper Fi"; "Marine Art," New York Times. July 13, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 United States Army Center of Military History (CMH), Army Art Program History.
  4. U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Art Program
  5. Sketchpad Warrior blog, "It's All in the Wrist," May 25, 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 CMH, artists, p. 1.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 CMH, artists, p. 2.
  9. NHHC, McClelland Barclay, Naval Art Collection.
  10. "Artist, Teacher, and Innovator Franklin Boggs". Beloit College Magazine. Beloit, Wisconsin: Beloit College (240622). Spring 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Brown University Library, American war artists
  12. PBS. They Drew Fire: Combat Artists of World War II, Howard Brodie. 1st broadcast, May 2000.
  13. James M. Myers, "CAMP BARKELEY," Handbook of Texas Online (, Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  14. CMH, Olin Dows
  15. NHHC, William Franklin Draper, Naval Art Collection; PBS. They Drew Fire, William Draper.
  16. Harrington, Peter, "The 1943 War Art Program," Army History, No. 55, Spring-Summer 2002, pp. 4-19.
  17. "Artist Ludwig Mactarian conveyed the grit of a combat engineer's life", The Washington Post, Jan 26, 2014. retvd 6 6 15
  18. Heim, Gordon H. (2005). "The Art of John R. McDermott" (PDF). Fortitudine. XXXI (4): 13–14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Further reading

  • Gallatin, Albert Eugene. Art and the Great War. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1919).
  • Cornebise, Alfred. Art from the trenches: America's uniformed artists in World War I. (A & M University Press, 1991).
  • Harrington, Peter, and Frederic A. Sharf. "A Splendid Little War". The Spanish–American War, 1898: The Artists' Perspective. (London: Greenhill, 1998). ISBN 1-85367-316-1