Over 15,000 paintings and sketches depicting scenes of life during wartime have
been sitting in a basement in Washington, D.C., collecting dust. “It’s
what I call the most famous collection no one has ever heard of,” said
Renee Klish, Army Art Curator at the U.S. Army Center of Military Art. A
sampling of this impressive collection — created by
American soldiers during active service– is finally making its debut.

Last Friday, the National Constitution Center
in Philadelphia unveiled a new exhibit entitled Art of the American Soldier, which features 250 of these rarely-seen works of art, organized into sections
such as: A Soldier’s Life, A Soldier’s Duty, A Soldier’s Sacrifice, and
The American Soldier. The exhibit depicts everyday military life from
training and deployment to combat and sacrifice. The unique perspective
from which this art has been created (through the eyes of America’s
soldiers) in many cases adds a deeply emotional and personal dimension
to the work.

The exhibit also surfaces the rich history of the successful Army Art
Program and burgeoning artist-in-residence program. The U.S. Army’s art
program began in an official capacity during World War I as the Army
realized the dual importance of art as historical record and a means to
boost morale. Eight artists were commissioned into the Corps of
Engineers and sent overseas with the mission to capture the life and
activity of American soldiers in any medium or style of their choice.

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