An Artist and a Veteran: John Taylor Arms

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John Taylor Arms (American, 1887-1953), “Battle Wagon” U.S.S. Alabama Outfitting at Norfolk Navy Yard, Crane Ship Kearsarge Alongside, 1943. Etching Gift of Mr. Harry J. McCormack 1952.5
John Taylor Arms American 1887 1953 Battle Wagon USS Alabama Outfitting at Norfolk Navy Yard Crane Ship Kearsarge Alongside 1943 Etching Gift of Mr Harry J McCormack 19525

As we honor our veterans this November 11, we are inspired by the stories, acts of heroism, and dedication of our members of the Armed Forces. At the Museum, particularly in our American art galleries, it is easy to find depictions of war and sacrifice throughout our American history. Some works of art, however, have stories behind them that are not as easily seen, but are just as important to share.

Now on view in the American gallery, our works on paper rotation “Industrious Devotion: John Taylor Arms’s Gothic Vision” highlights the masterful etchings of artist John Taylor Arms. As a World War I U.S. Navy veteran, John Taylor Arms (1887-1953) produced a series of images for the Navy during and after World War II.

Frustrated that the U.S. military had denied him reentry to World War II, due to his age, he decided to etch a series of four East Coast shipbuilding sites, which he then allowed the Navy to sell 500 prints of each for $5 apiece. Since he could not fight in the war and his two sons were serving, Arms found that his art became a way to give back and support the Navy. Norfolk Navy Yard, which is the location of this etching in the Museum’s collection, was among several shipbuilding sites that he visited to create the series.

We wish all those who have served a very Happy Veterans Day. The Museum will be closed in honor of the holiday, and we will reopen during our normal hours on Thursday, November 12.


Text by former BMA Goodrich Intern and Friends of American Art Research Fellow James Denison.