Sidedoor: ep. 3 | the art of war

In this episode, we look at artists whose work has helped reveal the human side of war. You’ll hear about a famous artist who got his start sketching Civil War soldiers and landscapes, and was never the same again. Also featured are two contemporary artists: a painter whose work depicts war's psychological impact on his best friend, and a female combat photographer who repeatedly risked her own life to document her fellow soldiers’ experiences on the battlefield.

The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will be on display in Washington, D.C. through January of 2018. There you can check out work by Stacy Pearsall, Vincent Valdez and the other artists featured in the show. Since retiring from the military, Stacy has started a new initiative called the Veterans Portrait Project. Her goal is to take portraits of veterans in every state and province from which the United States Department of Defense recruits. Vincent continues to show his artwork around the country and world. Remember Winslow Homer from the beginning of the episode? The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to many of his pieces in addition to some of the most inspiring, evocative pieces of American artwork in the world.

Images below are selections from The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now, on view at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery through January 2018.

Transcript | Credits

soldier brushing teeth

Up and Down, Not Across
Stacy L. Pearsall
Aluminum print
2007
Courtesy of the artist

soldier portraitreading

The Reader
Stacy L. Pearsall
Aluminum print
2007
Courtesy of the artist

soldier portrait

Apple Pie & Baseball
Stacy L. Pearsall
Aluminum print
2007
Courtesy of the artist

soldier portrait

One of the Boys
Stacy L. Pearsall
Aluminum print
2007
Courtesy of the artist

soldier figure on light background

Excerpts for John
Vincent Valdez
Oil on canvas
2012
Courtesy of the artist and David Shelton Gallery, © Vincent Valdez

soldier portrait

John (detail)
Vincent Valdez
Oil on canvas
2010-2012 
Courtesy of the artist and David Shelton Gallery, © Vincent Valdez

soldiers room

Christopher Scherer (detail)
Ashley Gilbertson
Pigment print
2009 (printed 2017)
Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo, ©Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo

sleeping soldier portrait

Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, July 2008. Specialist Steve Kim. Sleeping Soldier.
Tim Hetherington
Pigmented inkjet print
July 2008 (printed 2016)
Tim Hetherington, courtesy Tim Hetherington Trust, © Tim Hetherington

soldier portraits

Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, July 2008. 2nd Platoon's Lucas Walker with his lookalike replacement Ryan Glen Shriner of the 1st Infantry Division
Tim Hetherington
Pigmented inkjet print 
July 2008 (printed 2016)
Tim Hetherington, courtesy Tim Hetherington Trust, © Tim Hetherington

From the Collections

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum holds many of American artist Winslow Homer's drawings and paintings of soldiers. Learn how World War I marked a turning point with the appearance of artwork by first-hand participants. The collections of other Smithsonian museums also contain poignant artwork depicting a soldier's life from around the world.