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
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Jews on the front lineAustralian Jewish News, July 1st
Curator Deborah Rechter holds a shell casing that was transformed into trench art during World War I. Photo: Peter Haskin. A LETTER that 18-year-old Digger Idey Alexander wrote from the still smouldering battlefields of France shortly after the...Read more
Manatee History Matters: Palmetto museum wants to display your 'trench art'Bradenton Herald, June 29th
Trench art vase. Generally, trench art is recognized as any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. PHOTO PROVIDED ...Read more
Plethora of war-related pieces to seeMorpeth Herald, June 12th
Items include various souvenirs from the Somme battlefield, examples of trench art (made of materials such as surrounding wood and shell and bullet casings), embroidered postcards and pieces to do with domestic life in Morpeth in the First World War years...Read more
SA at the Olympics of the art worldInDaily, June 9th
a trip into the APY Lands to reconnect with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers (with whom she collaborated to make some of the elements in Wrong Way Time), for a project inspired by World War One trench art and developed by the Art Gallery of South Australia...Read more
Trench Art: Museum exhibit showcases art made during wartimeNewsbug.info, March 17th
This is plain to see through the Vermilion County War Museum's latest exhibit, labeled "Trench Art." The exhibit features various types of artwork from different wars. Some of the pieces were made by U.S. troops during times of war. Vermilion County...Read more
Trench art from Afghanistan helps Bushmills hero fundBallymoney and Moyle Times, March 5th
Lance Corporal Chris McKendry had made and sold trench art during his recent tour to Afghanistan and he made the presentation of the money raised and a piece of his trench art to President of the society, local war historian Robert Thompson...Read more
Trench art: a story of grace under fireSydney 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
Injured soldier's own thigh bone used for First World War 'trench art'ITV News, December 11th
Injured soldier's own thigh bone used for First World War 'trench art'. A brooch crafted from a piece of human thigh bone is among the items selected for an exhibition about the First World War at the University of Leeds. Share · Tweet · Plus · Reddit...Read more