The history of illustration during American wars goes back to the first one, when Paul Revere sold color engravings of the Boston Massacre to stir up anti-British sentiment and support for the revolution. And whether working from written accounts of battles or what they witnessed first-hand, illustrators have been around for nearly every U.S. conflict since.

The history of illustration during American wars goes back to the first one, when Paul Revere sold color engravings of the Boston Massacre to stir up anti-British sentiment and support for the revolution. And whether working from written accounts of battles or what they witnessed first-hand, illustrators have been around for nearly every U.S. conflict since.

The practice of sending illustrators to the front lines peaked during the Civil War, a time when Winslow Homer embedded with the Union army for Harper's Weekly. It wasn't long, however, before photographers started to replace combat artists. After Vietnam, photographers and filmmakers pretty much took over the territory.

Inspired by Homer, New York artist Steve Mumford sought to revive combat illustration during the Iraq War. He approached online visual arts magazine Artnet about press credentials. Shortly after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, he was in an armored fighting vehicle alongside U.S. soldiers on patrol.

Mumford would make several trips to Iraq over the next two years, covering Baghdad's artist community as well as its occupying soldiers and firefights. His drawings, watercolors and diary entries were compiled in the book Baghdad Journal in 2005.

"Entering the battle" chronicles a particularly hairy day in June 2004, when he joined troops on a ride through extremely unfriendly territory in Baqubah.

Stationed in the back of a Vietnam-era personnel carrier in the middle of a military convoy, Mumford watched as smoke up ahead signaled a hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on the lead tank. The vehicle carrying him was also hit before shooting subsided; fortunately for everyone inside, its armor wasn't pierced.

Gallery owner Rebecca Ibel, who'd followed Mumford's work for Artnet, just added the illustrator to her artist roster.

"He did large-scale paintings in this series too, but I like the drawings because of that immediacy," she explained. "The small drawings, many of them were made right there. You have a sense that these are real people doing real jobs. It's not just a CNN headline."

Though Mumford has critics who see an element of pro-American propaganda in his Baghdad work, Ibel has an opposite viewpoint.

"I'm not really that interested in making a political statement with it, and I don't think his work suggests that either," she said. "There are so few people who'd tackle this so straightforward, without bringing their own emotional baggage to it."

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