On the Road to Sedan, Frank Elim, November 1915, watercolor on paper
Images of the Great War: The European Offensives 1914-1916, a selection of World War I paper-based art from the Brown University Library’s renowned Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, will be on exhibit at the President Woodrow Wilson House, located at 2340 S. Street, NW, Washington, DC, from April 3 to August 10. The Library is honored to be co-sponsoring the exhibit with the museum, an ideal setting. Members of the public are invited to the opening, complimentary reception on Thursday, April 3 from 6 – 8 p.m.
In 2012, Andrew Woelflein ’86, Presiding Trustee of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection Committee of Management, had the idea to showcase the collection on the centennial anniversary of the war at the President Woodrow Wilson House. President Wilson was in office when war broke out in Europe. He entered the U.S. into the conflict when he signed the Declaration of War in 1917. After issuing his Fourteen Points for Peace in 1918, he developed the concept of an international body that became the League of Nations in 1919 and helped negotiate the end of the war eighteen months after the U.S. joined the effort. When he retired from the presidency in 1921, he resided in this house, now the President Woodrow Wilson House, until his death in 1924. The only presidential museum in Washington, DC, it has been well preserved by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to appear much as it did in the 1920s.
The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection Committee of Management, the Brown Club of Washington, DC, and the Library will host a reception for members of the Brown community at the President Woodrow Wilson House featuring a lecture by Richard Striner, Professor of History at Washington College, based on his new book Woodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden Too Great to Bear on Friday, May 9 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Professor Striner will be signing his book after the lecture. The book will be available for purchase on site.
The exhibit’s forty-four prints, drawings, and watercolors present today’s viewer with personal impressions of the Great War. Scenes of high drama and action set alongside images of pathos and deep sadness capture the contradictions inherent in war: suffering and joy, violence and tenderness, inhumanity and humanity. Curated by Peter Harrington, curator of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, and Stephanie Daugherty, curator at the President Woodrow Wilson House, the exhibit includes works by French, British, Italian, German, Dutch, Austrian, Turkish, and Swiss artists. It offers multiple perspectives of the war that brought such horror to the world—trench warfare, chemical warfare, and massive casualties, and such beauty—the famous poetry of the war, the monuments, and the visual art that is so well represented by this collection.
Multiple viewpoints are emphasized not only through the varied nationalities of the artists but also through the role of the artist and the original, intended audience. Curator Peter Harrington points out, “The significance of the prints and drawings on exhibit is that they offer an interesting contrast between those produced for the home front, often for commercial purposes, and the images created by the soldiers themselves.” Viewers of the exhibit will have the opportunity to see examples of both.
A display case containing 120 miniature lead soldiers from the Military Collection will be on exhibit as well. All the pieces in the exhibit will feature a poppy symbol, inspired by Major John McCrae’s famous poem “In Flanders Fields,” which has come to symbolize the loss of a generation on the battlefields of WWI: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row….” Harrington explains that use of the poppy further coalesces the pieces in the exhibit and underscores the emotional and historical value of each as remembrances of a war that had such a profound effect on the 20th century.
The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection is the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering and is one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms. It contains approximately 20,000 printed books, numerous albums, sketchbooks, scrapbooks and portfolios, and over 15,000 individual prints, drawings, paintings and watercolors as well as a collection of 5,000 miniature lead soldiers. To learn more about the collection, please visit its webpage at http://library.brown.edu/collections/askb.
Members of the Brown community interested in more information about the event on May 9 should contact Andrew Woelflein at email@example.com or Peter Harrington at Peter_Harrington@brown.edu.