Women in World War I American Expeditionary Forces Art

The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), commanded by General John Pershing, were the armed forces that the United States sent to Europe during World War I.  Because the American troops needed training, very few made it over to Europe before 1918.  Most of the AEF fought alongside Allied troops in France, but a small number served on the Italian front as well.

The AEF had 8 official artists who documented its activities during the war: William James Alyward, Walter Jack Duncan, Harvey Thomas Dunn, George Matthews Harding, Wallace Morgan, Ernest Clifford Peixotto, J. André Smith, and Harry Everett Townsend.  The artwork produced by these artists offers a vivid glimpse of the horrors and destruction of World War I and its devastating effects in Europe.  It also gives a window into AEF movements, activities, locations, and its involvement in the local war effort.  Some of the AEF art highlighted in this section shows women actively contributing to the war effort—making nets and camouflage, working in salvage depots, etc.  However, the artwork also shows women as civilians in war, both as innocent bystanders and as firsthand victims of the war.  These different roles in which women appear highlight the many ways that women were involved in and experienced World War I.

The War Department transferred the official AEF artwork to the Smithsonian in January 1920.


Further Resources

Alfred Cornebise, Art from the Trenches: America’s Uniformed Artists in World War I (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2015).

Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), 1848-1942, National Archives and Records Administration.

Smithsonian Collections Search Center: "Official Art from the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I."

Gene Burkett and Jan Hodges' series on World War I AEF Art: