Written by N-YHS History Detectives Reporter Riley Neubauer, age 14
Kids can explore this special exhibition with a free Family Guide, available at the Museum.
In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I, the New-York Historical Society is proudly presenting an exhibition that shows war from the perspectives of artists.
World War I Beyond the Trenches recently opened; the exhibition was previously on display in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and will next visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. While the exhibit is intended for adults, I believe students in grades 7–12 will still find it interesting.
The exhibition features many paintings, sketches, maps, posters, and models from all around the world and in many different mediums. The exhibition begins with art made before the U.S. entered the war and ends with art that both celebrates the war’s joyous end and the solemnity of the war’s destruction. While the whole exhibition is powerful, I would encourage you to pay special attention to these four pieces.
- When you first walk into the exhibit, immediately in front of you is an enormous painting titled It is an oil-on-canvas painting done by John Singer Sargent. It usually hangs at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London but has been loaned for this traveling exhibition. Sargent normally painted portraits of wealthy aristocrats but felt so strongly about the horrors of gas attacks that he wanted to express his feelings through art. It is an incredibly powerful painting.
- Another highlight of the exhibit is an original poster, which depicts Uncle Sam pointing with his slogan “I want YOU for U.S. Army.” This is the classic poster that the government used through the war to recruit new soldiers.
- One of my favorite displays includes miniature boats painted with a camouflage pattern. The boats were originally constructed as models for larger American ships that were painted so they would blend into the ocean. You can see the models alongside the blueprints for the larger ships. If you ever have the chance to visit the IWM, you can see a large display of recreations of these small miniatures used to mark locations in the sea during battle.
- The curators of the exhibition particularly like a painting by African American artist Horace Pippin titled The End of the War: Starting Home. When you first look at the painting, you see six white soldiers, but when you look closer, you see African American soldiers who blend into the surroundings. Pippin is trying to highlight the often unknown sacrifices made by African American soldiers during the war. Another amazing aspect of the painting is that Pippin made the frame out of wood and metal shaped like different items that can be found on a battlefield.
You can come see these incredible works and many others at the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition World War I Beyond the Trenches—on view now through September 3!
Photographs by Glenn Castellano / New-York Historical Society