U.S. Army unveils a trove of soldiers' war paintings

Mon Jul 19, 2010 3:36pm EDT
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By Jon Hurdle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An American soldier stands alone amid the long grass of a Vietnamese field accompanied by the helicopter that brought him there while a few other soldiers are seen in the background.

"Landing Zone," a somber depiction of the Vietnam War in 1966 by soldier John Wehrle, is among about 300 paintings by U.S. servicemen and women that will be unveiled to the public for the first time at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center in September.

The paintings have been selected from about 15,000 collected by the U.S. Army since the 1840s. Most have never been on public display.

"Art of the American Soldier" focuses on the duties, sacrifices, and everyday lives of troops, and covers every conflict from the World War One to Afghanistan.

The depiction of war through painting gives it an emotional dimension that photography cannot match, said Col. Peter Crean, deputy director of the Army Center of Military History.

"War is a totally emotional experience, and the medium of painting brings that out in a way that other mediums can't," Crean told reporters at the Pentagon, where the Army's vast collection of paintings has been held, mostly in storage.

In "GI's in Paris", Floyd Davis painted three exhausted-looking soldiers as a shawl-clad woman huddles in the background during the closing stages of the World War Two.

The war in Iraq is depicted by "Big Country", a 2004 painting by Heather Engelhart showing the silhouette of a soldier against a darkening sky.   Continued...

<p>"Landing Zone" by John Wehrle, Vietnam, 1966. REUTERS/National Constitution Center</p>