Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist
September 20, 2017–January 7, 2018
Charles and Irene Hamm & Dr. Theodore H. Johnson and U.S. Representative Nancy L. Johnson Gallery
The New Britain Museum of American Art is honored to partner with the Connecticut State Library in Hartford and the New Britain Industrial Museum to present Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist. This exhibition commemorates the centenary of America’s entry into World War I and marks the inaugural showing of the NBMAA’s historic and rare collection of war sketches by illustrator Harry Everett Townsend (1879–1941).
Townsend, one of eight official combat artists commissioned by the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) to illustrate World War I for the broad American public, spent over a year in France between 1918 and 1919, observing the rigors of war and the advent of industrial combat. The NBMAA’s Townsend collection consists of over 300 graphite sketches, ink drawings, and watercolors that the artist made as he moved through trenches, battlefields, and army bases. These preliminary field sketches informed the more refined, carefully crafted depictions of war that Townsend later submitted to the AEF for circulation on the home front. Unlike their more polished counterparts, now in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the NBMAA’s artifacts are embedded with Townsend’s immediate and unconscious reactions to the struggles and comradery of soldiers, the destruction of battle, and the rapidly evolving influence of technology on war.
Of the eight artists commissioned by the AEF, Townsend emerged as the group’s leading plane, tank, truck, and artillery illustrator. His drawings, although featuring minute details of military hardware and extensive blueprint notes, are surprisingly expressive in style. This unexpected lyricism will be supported in gallery by a collection of letters printed in "The Stanley Worker " newsletter, on loan from the New Britain Industrial Museum. These letters home, written by Stanley’s employees at war, reveal soldiers’ intrigue and amazement in the face of sophisticated warfare and speak to the novelty, gravity, and fear captured in Townsend’s intricate renderings of the war machine.
Concurrent to the NBMAA’s exhibition, the Connecticut State Library will present an installation of trench art at The Old State House in Hartford. Comprising etchings on artillery shells and canteens, trench art exposes the struggle and perseverance of individual men and women. The State Library will also lend a selection of these precious objects to Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist, and shown with a selection of Townsend’s soldier portraits, these war artifacts will highlight the human aspects of war. Through the use of various mediums and styles, Townsend unconsciously provided insight into the vast spectrum of emotions and circumstances that resulted from the demands of war. While some sketches are rendered with great detail to evoke sadness and empathy, others, with their use of loose lines and comic-like characters, transport the viewer to war-torn France where soldiers-turned-friends are sharing a laugh in the midst of combat.
Through never before exhibited collections of works, Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist will chronicle a moment in history that changed the world forever. Created on the battlefield, these depictions of the machines and human toll of war will present the intensity of combat with a unique, raw immediacy.
October 12, 2017
Christine Pittsley, A Comfortable Front: Harry Townsend and the Realities of War
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Join Christine Pittsley, Project Director for the Remembering World War OneI Project at the Connecticut State Library, for a discussion exploringe the works featured ...
October 26, 2017
Hearts of the World: A Love Story of the Great War (116 min.)
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Created in 1918 by D.W. Griffith, this silent film stars Lillian and Dorothy Gish, and was created as war propaganda, per the request of ...
November 10, 2017
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
With the Museum's special exhibition Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist on view, this Family Day offers visitors a great opportunity to ...
November 13, 2017
Letters from Home
1:30 pm to 3:00 pm
Ages 5–14 Homeschoolers are invited to the Museum to explore our nation's history through the featured exhibition Henry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War ...
November 1, 2017
Keep it Local
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Harry Everett Townsend was one of eight official combat artists commissioned by the American Expeditionary Force to depict the rigors of World War I ...
November 2, 2017
5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Harry Everett Townsend was one of eight official combat artists commissioned by the American Expeditionary Force to depict the rigors of World War I, ...
November 10, 2017
Focus on World War I
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Join a Museum docent for a guided tour ofto explore the themes and ideas of the featured exhibition Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a ...
December 28, 2017
A Farewell to Arms (120 min.)
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
In conjunction with the featured exhibition Harry Everett Townsend: Illustrations of a World War I Artist, the Museum is pleased to present a screening ...
October 21, 2017
World War I in the Hardware City: A Walking Tour with Karen Hudkins
11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Karen Hudkins, Executive Director of the New Britain Industrial Museum, will lead a free tour focusing on New Britain’s participation in the World War ...