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.


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Recent News: Trench Art

Source: Google News

Anzac exhibition to celebrate the trench art of war
The Advertiser, April 26th

“Rather than just doing an exhibition of historic trench art, we're putting those in conversation with artists who are responding to the contemporary trenches,'' said exhibition curator Lisa Slade. Hall, who also uses found materials and represented...Read more

Last week to see “CAST OFF: Michael Dinges” at Schingoethe Center
AU Today, April 25th

This is the last week to view Schingoethe Center's exhibition “CAST OFF: Michael Dinges.” Using folk art forms — scrimshaw and trench art from World War I — Dinges explores some of today's most pressing issues, including labor, the global economy and ...Read more

Cape Breton cadets remember Vimy Ridge
Cape Breton Post, April 12th

Prior to hitting the ground (that's army speak for going to bed) Warrant Officer Damien White of 1917 Army Cadets shared a powerpoint presentation on trench art and taught the group how to make a para-chord survival key chain. "The cadets spent the...Read more

Rare artifacts go on display monthly at Hueneme's Seabee Museum
Ventura County Star, April 8th

"Trench art are items that they created out of their own materials," King said. "Seabees, with their can-do fighting attitude, have taken the scraps from ordnance or metals or planes that have gone down from the Imperial Japanese Army and they crafted...Read more

Trench art was an expression of love and life amid the violence of The Great War
Albuquerque Journal, February 18th

And, although it's called “trench art,” they more likely had the time and opportunity to create the art while taking a break behind the front lines, recuperating in a hospital or biding time in a prisoner-of-war camp. This creation of beauty and self...Read more

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L.A. Weekly, January 13th

35th Annual Black Doll Show – Trench Art Retrospective: The War Against HIV/AIDS – Women of the African Diaspora in the Trenches Curated by Dr. Cynthia Davis. Facebook. -. Twitter. -. More shares. recommend; reddit; email. -. 35th Annual Black Doll ...Read more

Exploring Judy Waugh's trench art collection
ABC Local, November 10th

Judy is a collector of 'trench art', little objects made by Australian soldiers on the Western Front during World War One. The objects took various forms: tiny replicas of musical instruments; inkwells; snuffboxes paperknives and crucifixes. Soldiers...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