An Army chaplain performs the last rites, Bliliou (Peleliu) Island,, 1944

An Army chaplain performs the last rites, Bliliou (Peleliu) Island, 1944

Last summer in a post I mentioned a film called They Drew Fire. That PBS documentary was about the artists who painted and sketched the Second World War  as they witnessed it in both Europe and the Pacific. When we think “art” and “war” we think of Winslow Homer, Conrad Wise Chapman, and various others who sketched for Harper’s, Leslie’s Illustrated, or what have you. I suppose that the newsreels and photojournalism one saw in Life magazine, not the paintings and sketches that came from an artist’s hand, are the dominant iconography of the WW2. That the branches of the American Armed Services commissioned dozens of individuals to go forth and record what they saw is a story that has yet to be told fully. What is most incredible is the free rein they had.

Many of the thousands of works these artists produced from 1941-1945 are sitting in a modern storage facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, just outside Washington. The photos remind me of the Luce Center storage one sees at the Met Museum, New-York Historical Society,  the Brooklyn Museum of Art among other places. The goal is to move them into the National Museum of the United States Army that is currently being built within four years. I am interested to see how this project plays out.

(painting by WW2 artist Tom Lea, courtesy NPS)