Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Beginning

Alfred Waud-American Civil War
Fritz Rhein-WWI

Captain Charles Fraser Comfort-WWII

Colonel Peter Michael Gish-Somalia, Haiti, Kurdistan, and Vietnam

Colonel Donna Neary-Somalia

Richard Johnson-Afghanistan and Iraq

Steve Mumford-Iraq

CWO2 Michael D. Fay-Iraq and Afghanistan

Sergeant Kris Battles-Iraq

Lucian Read-Iraq and Afghanistan

Art and war have been fellow travelers since time immemorial. From Paleolithic cave drawings of spear wielding warriors to Otto Dix's apocalyptic WWI paintings art has tried to both visually record and come to grips with the intense reality of war. Many nations during the 19th and 20th centuries fielded official war artists. Equal numbers of newpapers, especially during the Crimean and American Civil Wars, began sending forth "specials" to sketch and photograph what they saw. Often both official and civilian war artists shared a core mission; help the folks back home understand what their sons, daughters, brothers, uncles and fathers were enduring far from home. What is remarkable, almost universal even unto this day, is the consistancy with which artist who've gone to war record not just the violence of combat, but the humanity of the combatants.

Few human endeavors have produced more stereotypes than war. Yet those of us who have intimately witnessed its ravages, have also experienced its complexity. A complexity which, though not easily captured, demands articulation. Wars are nuanced events with moments of terror juxtaposed with times of easy comradery. During war, the human face, perhaps the richest source for art, is presented in ways that it simply cannot when framed in the relative peace and safety of the homefront.

Today there is a small cadre of working war artists. Some of us are officially sponsored by a particular nation's military, others find themselves employed by newspapers and a few have gone to war as independents. We are perhaps the last analog people in a digital age. In an age of instant imagery some have found the slowed vision of art going off to the uncertain world of war reassuring.

There is also a large number of living war artists. A significant number of them have gone on to fine art careers of great renown. They too will be included in this new society, The International Society of War Artists.