Event Title

1B2: A Heartland Artist as Prisoner: The End Of Guy Brown Wiser's Air War

Start Date

29-9-2018 9:00 AM

End Date

29-9-2018 10:00 AM

Description

This presentation considers cultural representations of war through analysis of Guy Brown Wiser’s vibrant and colorful Zrsthand chronicle of a particular American Great War aviation experience—that of a pilot shot down and taken prisoner—preserved in 40 watercolor sketches at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF). Brought down in the late summer of 1918, Wiser recorded his captivity with humor and insight, visually juxtaposing Midwest-American and German sensibilities, and contrasting the casual U.S. aviator image against the “stiff German.” The Indiana native’s sketchbook serves as a rare record of WWI prisoner life brought to life by a skilled artist. Cultural analysis of Wiser’s sketches yields insights into how he and his fellow POWs thought about the war experience. He comments wryly, and with a particular American sensibility, on what the men valued, what they thought of one another and their captors, and how they interpreted their experience. His watercolor chronicle covers his shoot-down and capture, his various movements and associations as a POW, his release in the aftermath of the armistice, and especially the small observations of daily life behind the wire. Complementary evidence in the NMUSAF collection adds context to the artwork: Wiser interview audio, along with contemporary photos, his letters, and various military and civilian records help fill out a picture of the aviator-artist and his contribution to our understanding of American wartime experience. Approaching these visual and documentary sources from a curatorial-historical point of view, I will argue that Wiser’s keen artistic observations of wartime conditions and impacts on himself, his comrades, and his captors exemplify, with an American heartland perspective, the sanguine images of airmen shaped in popular culture. Comparisons with our knowledge of later conflicts and prisoners, and their vastly different experiences, will highlight transformative social change in the popular understanding of prisoners of war. Wiser, who went on to become a noted illustrator and painter, left a vivid, valuable graphic memory of his war which can serve as a means by which to explore social change and continuity in expressions of combat and captivity.

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Sep 29th, 9:00 AM Sep 29th, 10:00 AM

1B2: A Heartland Artist as Prisoner: The End Of Guy Brown Wiser's Air War

This presentation considers cultural representations of war through analysis of Guy Brown Wiser’s vibrant and colorful Zrsthand chronicle of a particular American Great War aviation experience—that of a pilot shot down and taken prisoner—preserved in 40 watercolor sketches at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF). Brought down in the late summer of 1918, Wiser recorded his captivity with humor and insight, visually juxtaposing Midwest-American and German sensibilities, and contrasting the casual U.S. aviator image against the “stiff German.” The Indiana native’s sketchbook serves as a rare record of WWI prisoner life brought to life by a skilled artist. Cultural analysis of Wiser’s sketches yields insights into how he and his fellow POWs thought about the war experience. He comments wryly, and with a particular American sensibility, on what the men valued, what they thought of one another and their captors, and how they interpreted their experience. His watercolor chronicle covers his shoot-down and capture, his various movements and associations as a POW, his release in the aftermath of the armistice, and especially the small observations of daily life behind the wire. Complementary evidence in the NMUSAF collection adds context to the artwork: Wiser interview audio, along with contemporary photos, his letters, and various military and civilian records help fill out a picture of the aviator-artist and his contribution to our understanding of American wartime experience. Approaching these visual and documentary sources from a curatorial-historical point of view, I will argue that Wiser’s keen artistic observations of wartime conditions and impacts on himself, his comrades, and his captors exemplify, with an American heartland perspective, the sanguine images of airmen shaped in popular culture. Comparisons with our knowledge of later conflicts and prisoners, and their vastly different experiences, will highlight transformative social change in the popular understanding of prisoners of war. Wiser, who went on to become a noted illustrator and painter, left a vivid, valuable graphic memory of his war which can serve as a means by which to explore social change and continuity in expressions of combat and captivity.