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 “Art of the American Soldier”

 Through Jan. 10, 2011 (followed by national tour) National Constitution Center Independence Mall

525 Arch St., Philadelphia, Pa. (215) 409-6600

Combat photography brought war home to people as never before in the 20th century—stirring emotions and changing perceptions. But there remain limitations on what a photographer can capture. That’s where the painter’s brush and cartoonist’s pen have proved their might, their power to affect us on a deeper human level.

Through January 10 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, curators offer the public a rare opportunity to experience combat through the eyes of American soldier-artists from World War I through the current Middle East conflicts. Presented in partnership with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, “Art of the American Soldier” highlights more than 250 works in a variety of media. The exhibition relates the ongoing story of the Army Art Program, drawing on its collection of some 15,000 works rendered over the past century by more than 1,300 soldier-artists.

Among those represented is Tom Lea, a noted Depression-era muralist who hopped a Pacific-bound destroyer in 1941—one of 17 civilian artists invited by Life to illustrate the war. It was during his stint with the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu in 1944 that Lea painted Marines Call It That 2,000-Yard Stare (above), a haunting portrait of a Marine suffering battle fatigue that in part popularized the expression “thousand-yard stare.”


Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.