trench art


Category 1:  Decorated or adapted shell casings

Category 2:  Other metal items

Category 3:  Wood & stone items

Category 4:  Bone items

Category 5:  Beadwork and embroidery

Given the broad definition of trench art, as any artistic item made as a direct consequence of war, the range of items identifiable as trench art is large.

One method of categorisation is by maker – Nick Saunders, in 2001, set out the following broad groupings:

Category 1:  Soldiers – then broken down into those on active service during the war, prisoners of war, the wounded and post-war service personnel, including the occupation forces and the labour corps that worked to clear the battlefields of debris.

Category 2: Civilians – broken down into by period into items made during the war and in the post-war period with a further category for interned civilians, for example those British civilians interned in Ruhleben camp in Germany and German civilians interned on the Isle of Man.

Category 3: Commercial Production, chiefly in the post-war period, including salvage companies responsible for breaking up naval ships in the twenties and thirties.

 The chief problem with this categorisation is that most trench art is unattributed.  Empty shell casings remained the property of the government who paid for its production, so trench art fashioned from it and identified by the maker would be tangible proof of theft, in theory, meaning 99% is unsigned.

As a result, without knowing who produced an item, you cannot categorise it by maker.

An alternative is to group items by material, which is usually definitive, thus the categories shown above.


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