Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


War and Society

First Advisor

Dr. Charissa Threat

Second Advisor

Dr. Gregory Daddis

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Wood


The United States requisitioned artists to assist with military objectives and servicemen requisitioned art as a form of rhetoric. This research reexamines the role of “official artists” and thereby extends its definition to include the multitude of art they produced during the Second World War. The underpinnings of this thesis reside during the economic crises of the 1930s that brought about American emergency relief initiatives for artists under the direction of Holger Cahill and, by extension, Edward Bruce. For the first time in history, the American public engaged with state-sponsored art. Due to a symbiotic relationship that formed between the State and the art community between the interwar years, 1933 and 1941, the United States witnessed a proliferation of art programs during the Second World War. The genesis of American war art of the Second World War began prior to the declaration of war in December of 1941. By the start of the war in 1941, members of the Armed Forces were already working with artists to formulate art programs. The production of practical art for training purposes burgeoned, and artist-correspondent initiatives reemerged to secure pictorial historical records of the war. Through a study of both practical and creative forms of “official” and “unofficial” art, this thesis reveals art was not merely employed during the Second World War for propaganda. During the Second World War, art was a valuable and malleable tool for both the State that required it to accomplish military objectives and for servicemen who relied on it to articulate their experiences to loved ones and one another. This narrative reshapes current assumptions of war art and encourages readers to reconceptualize art and its capacity to operate both as a State and social function.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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