Four Questions for Rex Passion
"It is human nature to want to forget the horrors of war."
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
Just over one hundred years ago, a young art student in Philadelphia, named Edward Shenton, joined the National Guard. Before he went away to training camp, he stocked up on art supplies, including many canvas-bound sketchbooks. He kept one with him every day for the next two years, and drew in them constantly: portraits of friends, the men building Camp Meade and, his various accommodations, whether a pup tent or a requisitioned chateau. He drew throughout his training and while he was in combat in France, his numerous sketchbooks include pictures of wrecked towns, dead soldiers, cannons, airplanes and warships. After the Armistice, he filled pages with portraits of soldiers and local French citizens. When Shenton returned home, he hoped to share his stories and drawings. But sadly, he found that people only wanted to forget the war, and no one was interested in looking at them. Shelton put his sketchbooks away, and continued his studies. Shenton went on to become one of the premier book and magazine illustrators during the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He had a fifty-year-long career, and passed away in 1977. Shelton's son, Ned, inherited many boxes of papers, sketches, journals, and books. As he looked through the pile left him, Ned Shenton discovered the World War I sketchbooks. Ned knew the value of what they were. With the help of editor/historian Rex Passion, they cataloged, researched, digitized, and edited, the sketchbooks, so their stories could be followed and understood. Now -- one hundred years after they were drawn, ninety years after they were stored away, forty years after the artist's passing -- Corporal Edward Shenton’s lost sketchbooks have finally come to light. "The Lost Sketchbooks, A Young Artist in The Great War" is an assemblage book, published by Komatic Press, and a commemorative partner of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission. The project's new web page on the Commission's website has gone live, and we caught up with Rex Passion to find out more about "The Lost Sketchbooks" in print and online came about.
Tell us about the Lost Sketchbooks. What are they? Who was the artist?
Rex PassionNed Shenton is a friend of mine. In 2010 he wanted to put up a website honoring his father, who was a major illustrator of books and magazines in the 1930s and 40s, and I agreed to help him. Ned brought over several boxes of his father's papers: book covers and magazine articles that he had illustrated, stories he had written, poetry and drawings. One box was full of old canvas bound sketchbooks. When I opened the book, I saw an amazing pencil drawing of two soldiers lying sprawled in a ditch with their bayoneted rifles pointing skyward. At the bottom was the caption, "Front line trench, evening. Shell-shocked and exhausted men waiting for darkness to be taken out." I was amazed, as was Ned. Although he had this box of sketchbooks since 1977, he had never looked inside; no one had seen them since his father put them away in 1920.
In the spring of 1917, Edward Shenton was an art student at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia. Days after war was declared, he and fifteen of his high school buddies joined Company B of the 103rd Engineers. They drilled at the armory until the beginning of July, then moved to Camp Meade in Maryland to begin their training. Before they left, Ed stocked up on canvas-bound sketchbooks from Wanamaker’s, along with pencils, graphite sticks and a watercolor set.
He drew the world around him every day in Camp Meade and later in Camp Hancock in Georgia. After they left for France in May of 1918, his schedule was more erratic, and he drew whenever he could, but not as regularly as in camp. He drew the "rest camp" in Calais and their training in Cremarest, and the various billets on their trip to the front. When the engineers were called upon to stop the German advance in mid‐July, he drew the "shell‐shocked and exhausted" men in the shallow trench in front of St. Agnan between artillery barrages. In Fismes, the engineers built bridges over the Vesle River at night, and Ed filled a notebook with sketches of their lives during the day. His drawings became fewer when they were repairing roads in the Meuse Argonne, but once behind the lines at Bettencourt, he drew the men enjoying a feast of eggs and rabbit. After the Armistice, he drew constantly, recording a myriad of portraits of soldiers and civilians and of the engines of war.
Read more: Four Questions for Rex Passion
Orem sculptor designs WWI commemorative coin
By Ashley Stilson
via the Deseret News web site
SALT LAKE CITY — The most common mistake beginners make, contest officials told LeRoy Transfield, is adding too much detail.
LeRoy TransfieldSo the Orem sculptor meticulously planned every detail of his 8-inch plaster masterpiece: a soldier with a crooked nose clutching a rifle, poppies blooming amid twisted barbed wire, and the words "In God We Trust" square to the soldier's face.
After several weeks of work, Transfield's finishing artwork was chosen as the winning design for the 2018 World War I American Veterans Centennial silver dollar.
"It was really hard to come up with a design," he said, "but in the end, I came up with something I was really happy with.
"When I sent it off, I didn’t know if it was going to do well or not, but at least it was something I could put my name on."
Although he's never sculpted a coin before, Transfield said U.S. Mint officials unanimously voted for his design among 20 other finalists. The final retail product is only 1 ½ inches wide, featuring Transfield's artwork on both sides of the coin.
The commemorative silver dollar will be released in January, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The U.S. Mint plans to strike 400,000 silver coins with Transfield's design.
More than 116,500 U.S. soldiers died in combat during WWI. Another 200,000 were wounded, according to the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission website.
Transfield had two uncles who served in WWI as members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Native Contingent, he said.
Read more: Orem sculptor designs WWI commemorative coin