A New Arsenal: American Art during World War I featured in Coe Thursday Forum

Extra: Rod Pritchard, Secretary of the College
(319) 399-8605 or rpritcha@coe.edu

2018-01-18 10:11:10 - General

Ranelle Knight-Lueth, Assistant Professor of Art
Ranelle Knight-Lueth,
Assistant Professor of Art

On April 6, 1917, the U.S. officially declared war on Germany, shifting from a merely belligerent nation to a full-fledged participant in World War I. Decades prior to that date, the American government sponsored artists to create art that helped establish the nation, but with the onset of the Great War, artists took on a greater role.

For the February Thursday Forum at Coe College, Assistant Professor of Art History Ranelle Knight-Lueth will discuss the important role that art played in the propaganda during this time. The sessions will be held Feb. 1, 8, 15 and 22.

Thursday Forum lectures are held in Kesler Lecture Hall in Hickok Hall on the Coe campus. Each session begins with registration and refreshments from 8:45-9:15 a.m., followed by the class until 11:30 a.m. An optional luncheon is offered at the conclusion of each series.

Some artists rallied against the war, producing anti-war art and exhibitions. With awareness of the tremendous influence art wielded at this time, President Woodrow Wilson implemented a new government organization, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), within days of the official declaration of war. The CPI’s mission was to persuade the public to support the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and the war effort overall. The CPI generated posters, exhibitions, films and other forms of propaganda.

The War Department also commissioned America's first official combat artists, recognizing that artworks had the ability to document and persuade—two key components to military success. Eight artists, whom Knight-Lueth calls the "AEF 8," were sent to France by the Army to create art "over there" for propagandistic purposes "over here."

However, the U.S. was not the only country with government-sponsored propaganda divisions. Great Britain, France and Germany implemented similar programs, and American efforts were often compared to their European counterparts.

Overall, American art faced a creative revolution during the Great War. The visual arts were used as weapons of war and peace, revealing the cultural and historical implications of American art before, during, and after World War I.

The Coe College Thursday Forum Series

Coe College Thursday Forum courses are open to all adults. Admission to the entire four-week course can be purchased for $35 on the first day or in advance. Admission to individual lectures is $12 per week. The closing luncheons cost an additional $8. Payment can be made in person on Thursday mornings by cash or personal check. Credit card payments can be processed online only. For more information about paying by credit card or directly from your checking account, or to order gift certificates, call (319) 399-8623.

For the remainder of the 2017-18 academic year, the Thursday Forum schedule includes:

  • "Two Scenically Beautiful Hikes in the English Countryside" - March 1
  • "Songs of Protest and Resistance" - March 8, 15, 22, 29
  • "Saints, Sinners and Secularists: Religion and Politics on the World Stage" - April 5, 12, 19, 26