On April 6, The Smithsonian Museum will be presenting the Artist Soldiers Exhibit which will showcase "war art" created by artists and soldiers during World War I.

In just a few weeks, the Smithsonian Museum will present the Artist Soldiers Exhibit -- an examination of a then-new form of artistic expression that came to be during World War I. As World War I unfolded, “war art” transformed as the U.S. Army for the first time recruited professional artists to present the war from a first-hand perspective -- rather than long after the battles had ended. Up until World War I, war art presented paintings of famous figures and battles in a manner which glorified the major events and figures in retrospect, while the realities and first-hand perspectives were largely undocumented. The Artist Soldiers Exhibit, on the other hand, reflects the change during World War I, presenting the first-hand perspectives and self-expression of soldier artists and displaying their stone carvings (still present in underground trenches) via photographic documentation by Jeff Gusky. [caption id="attachment_8064" align="aligncenter" width="910"]Artist Soldiers Courtesy of Air and Space[/caption]
The Artist Soldiers Exhibition will showcase how soldiers coped as the war dragged on, spending countless days and hours in bunkers and shelters. The stone carvings created by World War I soldiers range from simple things such as expressions of love, from carved phrases declaring love for family and romantic companions (i.e., "I Love Rhonda/me and my girl forever”), to love poems, to intricate and carefully crafted carvings of figures that mirror the remarkable talents of famous sculptors and artists throughout history. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="8060,8061"] Gusky’s photographs also document the world of underground shelters that the soldiers lived in for months at a time and provide some insight into daily living conditions and the first-hand perspective that war art began to bring forth from World War I on. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="8062,8063"] The work of the artists hired by the U.S. Army to capture the wartime activities and battles via illustrations were a way of helping the public to gain an understanding of war experiences and also present a realistic first-hand perspective of life in the trenches during the war. There are more than 700 paintings, drawings, and sketches that have seldom been presented and seen in exhibits since the 1920s -- until now. The Artist Soldiers Exhibit will be presented at two separate venues. Area residents and visitors can view the collections free of charge from April 6 until November 11 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Click here for more info. Will you be visiting the exhibit? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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