|Panel from "America Today," Thomas Hart Benton, (1930–31)|
After studying in Europe, fledgling artist and future muralist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) moved to New York City in 1912 and resumed painting. During World War I, he served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia. His war-related work had an enduring effect on his style. He was directed to make drawings and illustrations of shipyard work and life, and this requirement for realistic documentation strongly affected his later style.
Later in the war, classified as a "camoufleur," Benton drew the camouflaged ships that entered Norfolk harbor. His work was required for several reasons: to ensure that U.S. ship painters were correctly applying the camouflage schemes, to aid in identifying U.S. ships that might later be lost, and to have records of the ship camouflage of other Allied navies. Benton later said that his work for the Navy "was the most important thing, so far, I had ever done for myself as an artist."
During the Second World War, Benton was an official Navy war artist and turned out a memorable series of life about Navy ships, submarines, and shipyards.
|First World War Sketch, Probably Norfolk Navy Yard|
|Camouflage Documentation Prepared by Benton|
|WWII Series: "She's Off," Launching an LST, 1944|
Sources: Wikipedia, U.S. Navy Art Collection, Chrysler Museum Websites