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A war artist is an artist either commissioned by a government or publication, or self-motivated, to document first-hand experience of war in any form of illustrative or depictive record. War artists explore the visual and sensory dimensions of war, often absent in written histories or other accounts of warfare.
Artists record military activities in ways that cameras and the written word cannot. Their art collects and distills the experiences of the people who endured it. The artists and their artwork affect how subsequent generations view military conflicts. For example, Australian war artists who grew up between the two world wars were influenced by the artwork which depicted the First World War, and there was a precedent and format for them to follow.
Official war artists have been appointed by governments for information or propaganda purposes and to record events on the battlefield, but there are many other types of war artists. These can include combatants who are artists and choose to record their experiences, non-combatants who are witnesses of war, and prisoners of war who may voluntarily record the conditions or be appointed war artists by senior officers.