The monumental painting that you see above is American artist John Singer Sargent's rendering of gassed World War I soldiers. It's truly impossible to depict the size and scope of it here. This incredible work of art encompasses one whole wall of a large room.
If you want to see it and its commanding life size figures you have to visit the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art's new exhibition World War I and American Art, now on view through April 9 only. You had better get there soon since this is a show that commands your attention.Coinciding with the centenary of America’s involvement with the war, World War I and American Art is the first major exhibition devoted to exploring the ways in which American artists responded to the First World War.
The first major museum exhibition to revisit this unprecedented global event through the eyes of American artists, World War I and American Art transforms the current understanding of art made during the war and in its wake. The war's impact on art and culture was enormous, as nearly all of the era's major American artists interpreted their experiences, opinions and perceptions of the conflict through their work.
World War I and American Art is organized around eight themes: Prelude: The Threat of War; Hartley and Hassam: Tenuous Neutrality; Debating the War; Mobilization; Modernists and the War; Battlefields; The Wounded and the Healers; and Celebration and Mourning.
Arranged to follow the narrative of the war itself, the exhibition shows how artists chronicled their experiences of the unfolding war as it crept closer to home and then involved them directly as soldiers, relief workers, political dissenters, and official war artists.The exhibition includes numerous high-profile loans, Sargent’s painting that you see above. This painting, which has not been seen in the United States since 1999, was part of a commission to demonstrate British-American cooperation during the war.
World War I also unfolded when modernist art was being digested, adapted, and transformed by the American art world. Images made during the war reveal American artists in transition, using more experimental forms to capture the apocalyptic tenor of the conflict but also drawing on a straightforward realist manner to make the human experience accessible to their audience.
The exhibition features 160 works by 80 artists encompassing a broad variety of stylistic approaches, viewpoints, and experiences through paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, photographs, posters, and ephemera. A diverse array of both well-known and under-recognized artists is represented including Ivan Albright, George Bellows, Charles Burchfield, John Steuart Curry, Howard Chandler Christy, James Montgomery Flagg, Henry Glintenkamp, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, Carl Hoeckner, Mary Reid Kelley, George Luks, John Marin, Violet Oakley, Georgia O'Keeffe, Joseph Pennell, Jane Peterson, Horace Pippin, Debra Priestly, Man Ray, Boardman Robinson, Norman Rockwell, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan, Edward Steichen, and Claggett Wilson.
More pieces from the exhibition are shown below.
Al photos by Dan Cirucci.