Capturing the Coast Guard on canvas

Law enforcement training at Station Cortez

Coast Guard artist Robert C. Semler's painting "Law enforcement training at Station Cortez" was awarded the 2011 George Gray Award for artistic excellence. U.S. Coast Guard painting.

Throughout history, art – in its many forms – has been a common element in communicating military history. From cave paintings of organized hunts to John Ford filming the Battle of Midway to the many beautiful portraits of naval warships in the National Portrait Gallery and Time Magazine covers indelibly burned into our national consciousness, the history of our men and women at war has always resonated most with the American public via visual art. For the past 30 years, the Coast Guard Art Program has promoted the use of fine art to capture our service’s history and culture through works by some of the nation’s finest maritime artists.

“I think military or combat art is especially good at capturing living history – history as it happens,” said fine arts journalist Carol Kino in an interview with Coast Guard Compass.

In a world increasingly dominated by digital and social media, we asked Kino, who has covered the New York art scene for nearly two decades, why fine art was still an important means for capturing history, military or otherwise.

“By this point, we are all very used to photography and digital media, so a drawing or a painting now has a fresh impact that it might not have had forty years ago,” said Kino. “When you’re looking at an image that’s been made by hand, you have the sense not just that a hand touched it, but that a mind processed it as well. You also have a sense that it reflects the artist’s experience. It’s more than a record of a moment in time.”

Bob Semler in studio

Coast Guard artist Bob Semler works on a painting of Coast Guard Cutter Thetis in his studio in Bradenton, Fla. Photo courtesy of Robert C. Semler.

Kino recently served as a juror for the George Gray Award for artistic excellence at the unveiling of the Coast Guard’s 2011 art collection. The award is named in honor of renowned naval artist and co-founder of the Coast Guard Art Program George Gray and is given annually to the artist whose work best captures the service in action while depicting its myriad contributions to our country. Coast Guard artist Robert C. Semler was awarded this year’s prize for his depiction of law enforcement training at Coast Guard Station Cortez, Fla.

“Wow! With all of the good submissions, I’m very honored and pleased that everyone liked the painting so well,” said Semler. “As much as it is an honor to be recognized, I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to represent the brave men and women of the Coast Guard and their devotion to duty in my work.”

Congratulations to Bob Semler and to all of the artists whose work was accepted as part of the 2011 Coast Guard Art Collection. Click here to view high-resolution images of Coast Guard people, missions and operations as depicted by our Coast Guard artists.

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