War artist draws reality

1 (702 x 430)Achievement Desk

A war artist depicts some aspect of war through art. The art might be a pictorial record, or it might commemorate how war shapes lives. War artists explore the visual and sensory dimensions of war, often absent in written histories or other accounts of warfare.
A war artist creates a visual account of the impact of war by showing how men and women are waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering, celebrating, or destroyed, as in Vasily Vereshchagin’s 1871 painting, The Apotheosis of War.
The works produced by war artists illustrate and record many aspects of war and the individual’s experience of war, whether allied or enemy, service or civilian, military or political, social or cultural. The role of the artist and his work is to embrace the causes, course, and consequences of conflict, and has an essentially educational purpose.
Artists record military activities in ways that cameras and the written word cannot. Their art collects and distills the experiences of the men and women who endured it. The artists and their artwork affect how subsequent generations view military conflicts. For example, Australian war artists who grew up between the two world wars were influenced by the artwork which depicted the First World War, and there was a precedent and format for them to follow.
Official war artists have been appointed by governments for information or propaganda purposes and to record events on the battlefield, but there are many other types of war artists. These can include combatants who are artists and choose to record their experiences, non-combatants who are witnesses of war, and prisoners of war who may voluntarily record the conditions or be appointed war artists by senior officers. In New Zealand, the title of appointed “war artist” changed to “army artist” after the two world wars. In the United States, the term “combat artist” has come to be used to mean the same thing. The American panorama created by artists whose work focuses on war began with a visual account of the American Revolutionary War. The war artist or combat artist captures instantaneous action and conflates earlier moments of the same scene within one compelling image. Artists are unlike the objective camera lens, which records only a single instant and no more.
In 1917 the American military designated American official war artists who were sent to Europe to record the activities of the American Expeditionary Forces.
In World War II, the Navy Combat Art Program ensured that active-duty artists developed a record of all phases of the war and all major naval operations.
The official war artist continued to be supported in some military engagements. Teams of soldier-artists during the Vietnam War created pictorial accounts and interpretations for the annals of army military history. In 1992 the Army Staff Artist Program was attached to the United States Army Center of Military History as a permanent part of the Museum Division’s Collections Branch.
The majority of combat artists of the 1970s were selected by George Gray, chairman of NACAL, Navy Air Cooperation and Liaison committee. Some of their paintings will be selected for the Navy Combat Art Museum in the capital by Charles Lawrence, director. In January 1978 the U.S. Navy chose a seascape specialist team: they asked Patricia Yaps and Wayne Dean, both of Milford, Connecticut, to capture air-sea rescue missions off of Key West while they were based at the nearby Naval Air Station Key West. They were among 78 artists selected that year to create works of art depicting Navy subjects.


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