Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Recommended: "Into the Trenches: The U.S. Army Artists of WWI"

The National Museum of the United States Army has put together a remarkable display of their official art from the Great War.  Some pieces on display have seen considerable circulation, but some I've seen for the first time, including one of gas victims as moving as Sargent's famous painting at the Imperial War Museum.

Here is one action-oriented piece from the collection, by my favorite of the eight official U.S. Army artists, George Matthews Harding —


In this charcoal sketch of the fighting during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, American infantrymen, supported by a light tank, storm a German machine gun nest at bayonet point. A German potato masher grenade flies overhead, attesting to the ferocity of the hand-to-hand fight. The artist George Harding recalled, “…there is little chance of studying the subject beforehand. If an attack is scheduled, it happens rain or shine, night or day…to know his material, the war artist puts on a steel helmet, his gas mask, his trench boots, his trench coat and laden with only a sketch book, a couple of pencils and some emergency rations in his pockets, like any soldier present, he takes his chances…”

View All the Collection:


  1. Thanks for sharing this link. Great images. Unfortunately, my favorite is not shown. It is "The machine gunner" by Harvey Dunn. It has appeared in numerous places, including on book dust jackets, some of which "colorized" the image. For a B&W copy, see

  2. The Smitsonian digitised the works of the eight artists 'drafted" for the AEF.

  3. If you can, find the works of Col. John W. Thompson, Jr, USMC who was a noted artist during and after WW1. He was published in,among other magazines, The Saturday Evening Post. He was noted for his sketches from Bellau Wood thru the campaigns leading up to the occupation of the Rhineland. This is the same author of 'Fix Bayonets'-arguably on par with Junger's 'Storm of Steel' and Remarque's 'All Quirt on The Western Front'.