Monday, December 31, 2018

The Great War

The Great War, what we now call World War I or the First World War, ended one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918. Millions of Americans answered their country's call, including artists who created posters, illustrations, cards, bookplates, and other works on behalf of the war effort. Some worked mostly or exclusively on the home front, in the safety of their studios. There were also official artists, what were later called combat artists, that is, men in uniform who went to where the action was and brought back pictures of what they had seen there. For almost a generation after the war--until war came again to Europe--illustrators, cartoonists, and other artists in America depicted the Great War for a popular readership and viewership. The art and artists represented below only scratch the surface of war-related works created by men and women from the Hoosier State. I hope they are enough for now as the year ends and we look forward to 2019. Happy New Year!

Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960) of Fort Wayne worked with the Division of Pictorial Publicity, an organization of artists who created art for the U.S. government for the war effort. Falls may in fact have become the most famous among them for his posters, which were seen by countless millions nationwide. His most familiar involved books and reading, including this one, "The Camp Library Is Yours."

"Books Wanted," another poster by C.B. Falls.

The same design was used as a bookplate for the War Service Library.

Above and below: Posters by Falls promoting service in the U.S. Marines. 


With this poster Falls did the same with records as what he had done with books by asking people to donate their "slacker" records for the sake of troops stationed overseas. 

Joseph Clemens Gretter (1904-1988), who signed his name "Gretta," was born in Benton County, Indiana, and studied art in Iowa and Chicago. A cartoonist and illustrator (he later worked on Ripley's Believe It or Not!), Gretta drew the pictures for Glimpses of American History by Leah Berger (1933), from which this stark, intense, and frightening image is taken.

Gretta also illustrated a number of books for boys, including Wing for Wing by Thomas Burtis (1932). This is the frontispiece for the book. It shows an aerial attack on a German balloon, not as easy a thing as we might think.

Walter Jack Duncan (1881-1941) of Indianapolis was in a completely different category as an illustrator of war scenes, for he served in uniform as one of the official artists attached to the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). Duncan spent a little over a year in Europe, mostly in the rear, where he depicted scenes like this one, the disembarkation of American troops at the French port of Brest.

Here is another scene by Duncan of the port at Brest. Note the masts of the sailing ships in the background.

Finally, an interior scene by Duncan showing an American officers' mess in a cellar, probably in France. For more images by Walter Jack Duncan, see the website of the National Museum of American History, here.

Text and captions copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

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