'Etched in Memory' exhibit at National WWI Museum and Memorial

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Exhibition explores the cultural damage and loss in Belgium and Northern France during World War I

KANSAS CITY, MO. – The Great War caused vast destruction across Europe, and in addition to the lives lost in battle, many cultural landmarks were damaged or destroyed.

Opening Tuesday, Sept. 24, Etched in Memory, the latest special exhibition from the National WWI Museum and Memorial, features color etchings by British artist James Alphege Brewer published throughout the Great War as a reminder of the cultural losses it inflicted.

 Meuse – This etching features a view of the Belgian city of Huy from the Meuse River published in January 1916. After the bridge over the Meuse was destroyed by the retreating Belgian Army, Huy was attacked by the 2nd German Army on its way to Namur.

Meuse – This etching features a view of the Belgian city of Huy from the Meuse River published in January 1916. After the bridge over the Meuse was destroyed by the retreating Belgian Army, Huy was attacked by the 2nd German Army on its way to Namur.

“Our cultural institutions say a lot about who we are as a society,” said Jonathan Casey, Director of Archives and the Edward Jones Research Center at the National WWI Museum and Memorial. “It is crucial to understand the Great War’s impact on cultural institutions and how that affected society. Etched in Memory provides a window into the cultural tragedies suffered during the Great War.”

Brewer’s series of etchings were influential. They were begun on the basis of newspaper speculation prior to the German invasion of Belgium and their publication closely followed the events of the war in news from the front. This exhibition features 15 etchings depicting scenes directly affected by the Great War. The etchings are supported by images of destruction and devastation from the Museum and Memorial, juxtaposing the iconic buildings before and after the tragedy of the war. Some of Brewer’s war etchings were copied and distributed widely in the United States and could be found hung on parlor walls in solidarity with the Allied cause.

 Antwerp – Published in 1917, this etching offers a view of the Antwerp cathedral. The city was attacked in the early months of the war, first with bombs dropped from a Zeppelin airship and then with artillery fire during the Siege of Antwerp.

Antwerp – Published in 1917, this etching offers a view of the Antwerp cathedral. The city was attacked in the early months of the war, first with bombs dropped from a Zeppelin airship and then with artillery fire during the Siege of Antwerp.

Brewer was raised in an accomplished and artistic British family and studied at the Westminster School of Art before embarking on a career as an artist in the first years of the 20th century. Before and after the war, Brewer’s etchings of continental and English cathedrals—Milan, Rouen, Canterbury, Toledo, York Minster, St. Paul’s—and views of Oxford and Cambridge and Italian and Scottish lakes focused on scenes that would be of interest to tourists and readers of European history and literature.

Etched in Memory opens Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Ellis Gallery and closes March 1, 2020. This exhibition is on loan from and curated by Benjamin S. Dunham with special collaboration from the Museum and Memorial. The exhibition was made possible with support from the Francis Family Foundation.

 Ypres – This etching depicting Cloth Hall in Ypres was reproduced in the December 1915 issue of The Outlook. The building was heavily damaged during WWI before eventual restoration.

Ypres – This etching depicting Cloth Hall in Ypres was reproduced in the December 1915 issue of The Outlook. The building was heavily damaged during WWI before eventual restoration.

 Rheims Cathedral – At the beginning of the war, Brewer completed his first etchings of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Rheims, the iconic site of the coronation of Charles VII in 1429 after Joan of Arc’s victories over the English.

Rheims Cathedral – At the beginning of the war, Brewer completed his first etchings of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Rheims, the iconic site of the coronation of Charles VII in 1429 after Joan of Arc’s victories over the English.

 Cathedral of St. Gudule in Brussels – Published in January 1914, this etching stands out as an artistic premonition that foreign troops would soon march in the streets of Brussels, which occurred when Germany invaded Belgium in 1914.

Cathedral of St. Gudule in Brussels – Published in January 1914, this etching stands out as an artistic premonition that foreign troops would soon march in the streets of Brussels, which occurred when Germany invaded Belgium in 1914.

About the National WWI Museum and Memorial

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The National World WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on a journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.