A New Selection of 28 Posters, Prints, Drawings and Photographs Now on Display in the Library of Congress Exhibition “World War I: American Artists View the Great War”
By Donna Urschel, Library of Congress
The exhibition opened in May 2016 and is on view through August 19, 2017, in the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street SE, Washington, DC. The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Tickets are not needed.
In the new rotation of art, notable themes include the vilification of the German enemy; trench warfare and the use of poison gas; the service of Red Cross nurses and volunteers; and the aftermath of the war and recovery. Artists represented include George Bellows, Kerr Eby, Charles Dana Gibson, Gordon Grant, Edwin Howland Blashfield and Samuel J. Woolf; poster artists Frances Adams Halsted, James Montgomery Flagg and John Norton; cartoonists McKee Barclay and Otakar Valasek; and photographer Lewis Hine.
The works of art are drawn from the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division collections. In addition to the 28 new items on display, a monitor slideshow highlights another 60 items.
The exhibition examines the use of wartime art for patriotic and propaganda messages—by government-supported as well as independent and commercial artists. Many of the artists worked for the federal government’s Division of Pictorial Publicity, a unit of the Committee on Public Information. Led by Charles Dana Gibson, a pre-eminent illustrator, the division focused on promoting recruitment, bond drives, home-front service, troop support and camp libraries. In less than two years, the division’s 300 artists produced more than 1,400 designs, including some 700 posters.
Heeding the call from Gibson to “Draw ‘til it hurts,” hundreds of leading American artists created works about the Great War (1914–1918). Although the United States participated as a direct combatant in World War I from 1917 to 1918, the riveting posters, cartoons, fine art prints and drawings on display chronicle this massive international conflict from its onset through its aftermath.
“World War I: American Artists View the Great War” is made possible by the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, and is one in a series of events the Library is planning in connection with the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. An online version of the exhibition is available at loc.gov/exhibits/american-artists-view-the-great-war/.
Katherine Blood and Sara Duke from the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress led the division’s curatorial team. Betsy Nahum-Miller from the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office is the exhibition director.
The art exhibition complements the upcoming major exhibition “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I,” which will open April 4, 2017. “Echoes” will feature more than 200 items and will draw from a wide array of original materials from the Library of Congress, which has the most comprehensive collection of multi-format World War I holdings in the nation. In combination, these exhibitions reveal the extraordinary stories of this turbulent time in our nation’s history and the powerful global forces that war unleashed.
Now through April 2017, the Library of Congress is featuring twice-monthly blogs about World War I, written by Library curators who highlight stories and collection materials they think are most revealing about the war. The blogs can be viewed at loc.gov/blogs. In 2017 and 2018, the Library will offer lectures, symposia and other programming on World War I, produce educational materials, publish a book about the war, and plant “Victory Gardens” in the front beds at its Jefferson and Adams buildings.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division holds nearly 16 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day. International in scope, these visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit loc.gov/rr/print.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the US Congress and the home of the US Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for US federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.