October 6, 2017–January 21, 2018

World War I and American Art

Ingram Gallery

  • James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960). I Want YOU for U.S. Army, Nearest Recruiting Station,1917. Poster, 40 x 29 1/2 in. Collection of Walton Rawls. Photo: The Library Company of Philadelphia

  • John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). Gassed, 1919. Oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 240 in. Imperial War Museums, London. Photo © IWM Imperial War Museums, Art.IWM ART1460

  • Marsden Hartley (1877–1943). Portrait, ca. 1914–15. Oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 21 1/2 in. Lent by the Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Bequest of Hudson D. Walker from the Ione and Hudson D. Walker Collection, 1978.21.234

  • John Steuart Curry (1897–1946). The Return of Private Davis from the Argonne, 1928–40. Oil on canvas, 38 1/4 x 52 1/4 in. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, 2011.763. Photo © Estate of John Steuart Curry, courtesy of Kiechel Fine Art, Lincoln, NE

  • Childe Hassam (1859–1935). Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917, 1917. Oil on canvas,30 1/8 x 36 1/8 in. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Bequest of Candace C. Stimson, 1944.20. Photo: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover/Art Resource, NY

  • Jane Peterson (1876–1965). Red Cross Work Room 5th Avenue, NYC during the War, ca. 1917. Watercolor on paper, 17 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. Collection of Jonathan L. Cohen

  • Horace Pippin (1888–1946). The Barracks, 1945. Oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1946

Today, nearly a century after it ended, World War I (1914–1918) remains a stark example of how far modern civilization can descend into violence. The United States, led by President Woodrow Wilson, entered the war only in April 1917 and helped bring the conflict to an end in November 1918. Even though the United States was involved in active fighting for a relatively short time, the war set into motion political and cultural changes still with us today.

The conflict’s intensity and size led its participants and observers to seek a new visual language to describe it. American artists were vital to the culture of the war in several ways. They developed imagery that promoted US intervention and made daring anti-war cartoons. Some worked as official war artists embedded with troops. Others designed camouflage or took surveillance photographs. On the home front, some were vocal about the war and exhibited ambitious works of art in response to events, while others dealt with wartime anxieties in personal ways. In the decades after the conflict, many artists reflected on the significance of their war experience or pondered the war’s reverberating effects on the country.

World War I had a pervasive presence in the lives of Americans, before and after the United States entered the hostilities, and artists of all generations, aesthetic positions, regions of the country, and political points of view took notice and reacted. This exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine World War I and its impact on American art.

George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, Georgia O’Keeffe, and John Singer Sargent are among the more than seventy artists whose response to the Great War is explored.


World War I and American Art was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

World War I and American Art at PAFA was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, and from the Henry Luce Foundation. 

Additional funding provided by grants from the David A. and Helen P. Horn Charitable Trust, Edwin L. Fountain, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, The McCausland Foundation, the General Representation of the Government of Flanders to the USA, Mrs. Helen Horn Bickell, Carolyn Horn Seidle, Ellen and Leonard Milberg, Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, Bank of America, Mr. and Mrs. Beat Curti, Mr. and Mrs. Kevin F. Donohoe, Connie and Jules Kay, Dr. and Mrs. J. Brien Murphy, and Ken Woodcock.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.


The Frist Center gratefully acknowledges the Friends of American Art:

Hunter and Leigh Atkins
Carol C. Brewer
Drs. Robert and Nancy Wahl
David Jon Walker and Family




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