(October 28, 2015)
Meadows Museum of Art opens "Sketches from the Trenches: Jean Despujols in World War I"
Jean Despujols, "Moussy Trench, February 16," c. 1915
SHREVEPORT, LA — To picture World War I is to envision its horrors - flooded trenches, rampant disease, gas attacks, and never-before-seen ravages of automatic artillery. But how did the Great War appear to one of France's most promising young artists, Jean Despujols, deployed as a machine gunner along the German front? The Meadows Museum's new exhibition "Sketches from the Trenches: Jean Despujols in World War I" offers exclusive insight to a French soldier's experience. On loan from the Despujols family, these drawings have never before been displayed. The exhibition will run from November 7th, 2015 to January 31, 2016, and also features loans from the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and the R. W. Norton Art Gallery.
Dr. Chad Fulwider, Associate Professor of History at Centenary College of Louisiana, describes the significance of the exhibit: "Despujols's work is historically unique because he crafted these sketches during the war while living in the trenches along the Western Front. Most World War I art was created after the events, often many years later. Furthermore, his skill as an artist had already been recognized before his induction into the military." Given the scarcity of drawing paper, Despujols (1886-1965) drew many of his war scenes on the backs of letters and paper scraps, eventually binding 136 of these eyewitness images into a sketchbook. Filled with pathos and nobility of spirit, this sketchbook testifies to his belief that artistic endeavor enables humanity to triumph over its tragedies.
On November 7, the public is cordially invited to a free reception at the Meadows from 5-7 p.m., with food and drink provided by the Friends of the Meadows Museum. At 5:15 p.m., Trey Gibson, Director of Debate at Louisiana State University-Shreveport and the artist's grandson, will give a talk entitled "Researching My Grandfather."
On November 20 at 6:30 pm, the Meadows will host the lecture "Visions of Hell: The World War I Sketchbook and Journal of Jean Despujols" by Dr. Dana Kress, Professor of French at Centenary. Dr. Kress was the first scholar to extensively research Despujols's work, and is currently working on a book about these war sketches. He explains, "Despujols was crowned with France's most coveted artistic award, the Prix de Rome, on July 18, 1914. A week later, just as he was leaving to continue his studies in Rome, Germany declared war on France. Despujols was mobilized on August 2, 1914 and served for four years in the trenches. This French soldier-painter fought in some of the most devastating battles of the war: Verdun, the Chemin des Dames, the Belgian campaign, the village of Craonne and the Battle of the Marne."
In conjunction with the exhibition, on January 29, 2016, at 6 p.m., Dr. Thomas Boghardt, Senior Historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, will give a lecture entitled "Intelligence in World War I."
About the Meadows Museum of Art
The Meadows Museum of Art is located on the campus of Centenary College of Louisiana at 2911 Centenary Boulevard in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-4 p.m. For more information or to schedule fieldtrips, call the Museum at 318.869.5040 or visit www.centenary.edu/meadows.