Strictly speaking, trench art is a phrase that describes folk art created by soldiers who were stuck in the trenches during World War I. But trench art as a more broadly defined genre includes all sorts of art objects made during numerous military conflicts going back to the early 1800s, including items produced by prisoners of war.

Leaving aside the question of era, there are several generally accepted categories of trench art. Some of the earliest examples are wooden boxes made by French prisoners captured by the English during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

By World War I, prisoners on both sides of that struggle were engraving and carving everything from spent shell casings to soup bones, transforming them into poignant mementos and useful historical records of the war to end all wars. Some pieces are particular to certain battle zones. For example, Turkish prisoners were known for their beaded snakes.

Those soldiers who did not have the time or tools to engrave spent artillery shells in the trenches often brought them home, where they would be embossed, fluted, and flared. Engravings on canteens and mess kits were probably done in the field, as were paintings on helmets.

Other examples of trench art include letter openers and knives made from bullets and shells; presentation plates hammered and engraved from flattened casings; lighters formed out of enemy belt buckles; and inkwells carefully crafted from fuse caps.

Soldiers recovering from their wounds also made trench art, usually in the form of embroidered badges and belts. Similar pieces made by wives and girlfriends waiting for their loved ones to return home are also considered trench art.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum's website showcases current and past exhibitions along with their permanent collection… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Anonymous Works

Anonymous Works

This blog combines American primitive folk art, vintage vernacular photography, outsider art, and other interesting… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

The Outsider Art Pages

The Outsider Art Pages

A modern look at folk and outsider art with a focus on what people are doing to keep these traditions alive. The si… [read review or visit site]

Folk Art in Bottles

Folk Art in Bottles

Whether you call them Bottle Whimseys, Whimsey Bottles, Puzzle Bottles, or Whimsies, this site showcases great folk… [read review or visit site]

Index of American Design

Index of American Design

The Index of American Design project (1935-1942) was an effort to catalog American decorative arts objects from the… [read review or visit site]

Stoveburner.com

Stoveburner.com

A stunning collection of 162 images of stoveburners, those corroded cast iron elements that power stoves, broilers,… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Very Unusual Ww1 Trench Art Miniature Coffin With 13mm Inert Spent BulletWw1 British Royal Flying Corps Raf Brass Bi Plane Shell Cartridge Trench Art2 Old Brass Cigarette Lighters Trench Art.Antique Solid Brass Ww1 Trench Art Vickers Gun 1914-1919World War 1 Gunboat [trench Art]Hand Made Trench Art Copper Brass Box Gothic Arts & Crafts Antique Trunk Chest Trench Art 303 Bullet Ww1 Tri- Plane Solid Brass With Copper Crosses Red Baron Ww2 Trench Art Brass Shell Plane & Shell Base Ashtray. UnusualRare Ww1 Military Trench Art Lighter Raf Eagle Kings Crown Buttons Ww1 Tall Trench Art French Shell Engraved & Dated 1918.Brass Trench Art Ww1 Field Gun ModelPlated Metal Trench Art Ashtray - Kangaroo & Wwii Plane - Original ConditionAntique Wwii Era German Solingen Fighting Dagger Knifef Trench Art BayonetWw2 U.s. Theater Knife Trench Art Lucite HandleAntique Heavy Sterling Silver Trench Art Coin/eagle Mens RingLarge, Heavy Ww1 Shell Trench Art Made Into A Money Box. Maple Leaf InscriptionTrench Art Brass Ww1 Gun Shell Case Dice Shaker Box French Centimes Coin VintageWw2 German Flagpole Eagle Mounted On Used Shell Casing Trench Art Hamburg Ww1 British Tank Regiment Fearnaught Badge Wooden Trench Art BoxTrench Art Ww1 Tank 1912 Old Penny Coin Lid Vesta Ink Well Wwi Trench Art Match Safe W/ Pickelhaube Design-original *** Wwii Trench Art Shell Ashtray 1945 Uss Lorain Named *** Rare Ww1 Trench Art/sweetheart Badge/brooch - Ypres. Mother Of Pearl Handle.Antique Ww1 Ww2 Theatre Trench Art Fixed Blade Bowie Knife Hunting Knives ToolsWwi Trench Art-3 1/8" Beautifully Etched Cannon Shell Jewelry Jar? Meuse ArgonneWw2 Brass Trench Art Tankard Persian Gulf Command Salvaged From BattlefieldVintage Brass Trench Art ( Book Form ) Cigarette LighterWw1 Trench Art Shell Decorated And Engraved "liege 1917".Ww2-trench-art -bank- 1942 Antique Shell !Trench Art, Bullet, Lighter.Ww1 Ww2 Australian Military Trench Art Plane Airplane BritishVintage Mens Wwii 800 Coin Silver "tripoli" Ring-size 10 3/4~trench Art3 Islamic-middle-east-inlaid-silver-brass-trench Art Star Of David Vases FinganTrench Art Brass Ww2 .50 Cal Gun Shell Case Oiler Tool General Service ButtonWwii,1939-45 Aluminium * Sierra Leone * Trench Art Cigarette Case,pierce,halifaxWw1 British Trench Art Small Hat Queen Victoria Bronze PennyWwii Trench Art Lift Arm Aluminum Lighter With 1944 Us Quarter InsertVintage Wwii Bomber Sweetheart Necklace - Trench Art ?Collection Of Ww2 Trench Art From A Fire Extinguisher From The Uss PetersonPair Of Solid Silver Ww1 Trench Art Salt Spoons Indian Raj 2 Annas Coins 1916 01Trench Art Ship Art Naval Cigarette Lighter Ww1 Ww2Trench Art Screw Top Brass Snuff Pill Box Ww2 Royal Tank Regiment Button Vintage1951 King George Vi Halfcrown Coin Snuff / Stash Box Or Pill Pot Trench ArtAntique/vintage Wwi Trench Art Copper Letter Opener - 7.75" LongOld Trench Art Artillery Rocket Space Ship ? Way Cool .. HeavyAntique Vintage Trench Art Fleury Thiaumunt - Vimy Ww1 Lighter W Rooster - LionAustralian Ww1 Military Trench Art Shell Ypres France105mm Shell Casing W/reproduction Projectile Steampunk 105 Mm Trench Art M14b4 Trench Art Flying FortressVintage French Cigarette Lighter - Trench Art Army La Marne - Lion 1918 RoosterVintage 1916 Ww1 Brass Trench Art Shell Case Decorative Plate With SoldierWwi World War One 1914 One Penny Trench Art Finger Ring Korean War Collectible Trench Art B 29 Superfortress Bomber Model Diamond H UnitVintage Wwii Brass Trench Art Spitfire Aeroplane On Stand - Art Deco Civil War Bullet Dug Trench Art Nice Carved Chess Piece Rare "queen" AntiqueWwi Ww2 British Sweetheart Trench Art Silver Victoria George Pence Coin BraceletTrench Art. Ww I. Brass Letter Opener. Lens. Ref. 8006Civil War Bullet Dug Trench Art Carved Five Chess Pieces Rare Primitive AntiqueShot Wwii War 1932 Halfpenny Coin Bullet Embedded Detected Trench Art Relic FindPlumbob Plumb Bob Plum Weight 1939-1945 World War 2 Ww2 Trench Art

Recent News: Trench Art

Source: Google News

Artists no longer neglecting wood
Columbus Dispatch, August 30th

Trench art, paperweight, artillery shell, mounted on stepped base, patinated relief spelter, 1918, 23/4 by 51/2 by 41/4 inches, $275. • Flag, American, 40-star, parade, glazed cotton muslin, inscribed Dr. Crawford, printed, hand-stitched elements, 1889...Read more

Lifelike wooden sculptures
Observer-Reporter, August 29th

Clarice Cliff pottery vase, Bizarre shape, My Garden, painted, yellow, multicolor flowers, 5 x 3 1/2 inches, $120. • Royal Bayreuth pitcher, figural, lobster shape, painted, green handle, blue mark, 1900s, 7 inches, $230. • Trench art, paperweight...Read more

Wood carvings grow in popularity, collectibility
Winston-Salem Journal, August 27th

Trench art, paperweight, artillery shell, mounted on stepped base, patinated relief spelter, c. 1918, 2¾ x 5½ x 4¼ inches, $275. Flag, American, 40-star, parade, glazed cotton muslin, inscribed Dr. Crawford, printed, hand-stitched elements, 1889, 84 x...Read more

Kemper to host exhibit on World War I art
The Edwardsville Intelligencer, August 20th

Also included are rare examples of handmade “trench art,” with which soldiers memorialized their units and the battles they fought. These range from painted helmets and an engraved canteen to small objects made from shell casings. Aftermath. The final ...Read more

At Tower of David, ancient stones host modern art ode to Jerusalem
The Times of Israel, August 15th

Parnas used old methods to create new art in “Ammunition Hill,” which contains his contemporary interpretation of Trench Art – historically made by soldiers in World War I with remains of weapons while sitting in the trenches – and Death Masks, based...Read more

'World War I: War of Images, Images of War'
Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom, August 12th

Robert McGiffin, Painted American Helmet, c. 1918. 5 1/8 x 11 1/4 x 12 3/16”. Jane A. Kimball, Trench Art Collection. Hi-res images upon request. War looks different, before you're in it. In 1914, as Europe lumbered optimistically to battle, a proxy...Read more

County Durham woman amasses trench art collection over 30 years
ChronicleLive, July 14th

For a project which aims to track down First World War trench art in the North East, Judy Sunter's home is the perfect place to start. Judy, who lives near Stanley in County Durham, has amassed a collection of more than 600 pieces of trench art, much...Read more

Trench art: a story of grace under fire
Sydney Morning Herald, February 26th

Slade, who's based at the Art Gallery of South Australia, envisioned a marriage between historical trench art and contemporary work, and came up with En-Trenched. The exhibition – supported by the federal government's Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture ...Read more