Recruited to Record: Official Artists of World War I

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This lecture explores the role of prints in portraying the preparations, combat, and aftermath of World War I. Rather than presenting a chronology of events, this talk focuses on how printmakers evoked eyewitness experiences of war. As European and North American nations expanded their campaigns, select artists were enlisted to create a visual record of the war that promoted the government’s perspective on the conflict to Allied and neutral nations. These recruits, called Official War Artists, depicted action along the mobilized home front, the Western Front, and far-flung campaigns in the Middle East and beyond. This talk examines how Official War Artists recorded varied experiences of endurance, sacrifice, camaraderie, trauma, patriotism, and even pacifism, derived from direct exposure to combat.

Commemorating the centenary of World War I, this talk highlights prints included in the recent VMFA exhibition THE GREAT WAR: Printmakers of World War I.