chapter
Introduction
ByKeith Bresnahan, J. M. Mancini
Pages 8

This chapter approaches Life's coverage of architectural destruction during World War II from two fronts: first, through a close examination of Life's war artists' paintings and drawings of wartime wreckage that were published in the magazine's weekly pages, and second, through a case study of Life's 1946 traveling exhibition Fine Arts under Fire. It shows how Life's depictions of wartime ruins both shaped the reception of American actions during the war and presented the United States as a force for preservation and reconstruction by the war's end. While Life's war artists covered nearly every aspect of the war, one of the themes they explored most often in their art was the damage done to historic buildings, cathedrals, and monuments. While installation photographs of the exhibition have not been found, Fine Arts under Fire likely followed the typical format of other photographic exhibitions Life organized in the 1940s and 50s, which ranged in topic from the Medieval World to Venice.