Art of War

I’ve been reading a lot about the art of World War I lately. From the recent article about Smithsonian’s WWI art collections to the 800,000 red poppies at the Tower of London to the WWI Memorial Inventory project to the Imperial War Museums Google Art Collection, the art of WWI is everywhere.

Even here at the Connecticut State Library the art of World War I has made its appearance. The Connecticut State Library is not a place you might expect to find art. Our collections are more archival in nature. Our Museum of Connecticut History has some art –  like the Governors portraits – but those collections are more industrial in nature, like Colt firearms or Connecticut made appliances and machinery.

shell art; WWIBut hidden, in this collection or that, are pieces of art. There is shell art brought back by Connecticut soldiers, propaganda posters and works by WPA artists more than a decade later. It is there if you know where to look, or you stumble across it as I did.

WWI, Colonel John Henry "Machine Gun" ParkerI was recently helping a fellow State Agency with a project when I realized this. This agency wanted images from our WPA Art collection for display in their offices. Now I have been working with this collection for many years now but I had never noticed how much of the art was born out of World War I. But now, with my focus turned to the Great War, I began to see it. A painting of Major General C.R. Edwards of the 26th “Yankee” Division, a memorial statue of a Connecticut doughboy, a mural about the eternal task of youth filled with images of young soldiers on the battlefield.

The art of the war is all around us. There are memorial plaques, sculptures and statues all over Connecticut, the United States and the world commemorating those who served in World War I. We simply don’t recognize them as such any more, and when we do how many of us recognize these memorials as works of art?