The US Army has received a $600,000 budget allocation for the purchase of works by Samuel Johnson Woolf, Defense News reported. The acquisition is said to comprise 23 World War I paintings by Woolf, a journalist, graphic designer, and illustrator for Collier’s Weekly who was embedded with American forces in Europe during the conflict. In an “unusual and compelling urgency” budget request filed October 16, the Army justified the purchase in part by stating that the lot was “the only known collection of this kind available at this time,” and represented “one of a kind historic documents.”
Defense News notes that “almost all” artwork documenting the first World War produced by the Army (which had a cadre of artists “commissioned as captains in the Corps of Engineers” dedicated to the task) ended up at the Smithsonian. Coincidentally, Woolf’s papers are also held by the Archives of American Art, among them 107 drawings of popular Americans (Woolf was also a prolific editorial portraitist). The Smithsonian adds that Woolf covered both World Wars as a journalist, and in addition to his work at Collier’s “combin[ed] his portraits with his written accounts of his ‘personality interviews’ for the New York Times.”
The works will join the Army’s collection of over 16,000 artworks currently housed in a 60,000 square-foot warehouse called the Museum Support Center in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and destined for the National Museum of the United States Army, a $175 million project of the Army Historical Foundation set to open in June 2015 with a design by New York architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.