Test your knowledge with a quiz
- American entry into World War I was influenced by a series of reports, notably the British Bryce Report of 1915, outlining atrocities said to have been perpetrated by German soldiers in Belgium. While these reports may not have been entirely factual, they swayed public opinion to support American intervention in the war.
- An unusual subject for George Bellows, Return of the Useless is part of his War Series, a group of paintings, drawings and lithographs that created a visual account of the war. His depiction of the brutal treatment of these Belgian civilians being returned from forced labor camps, aimed to generate sympathy among its American audience.
- Bellows drew on art historical traditions, especially Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War prints, to imagine the abuses described in the Bryce Report. His staged interpretation uses dramatic lighting, gestures, and details to convey a sense of danger and suffering.
Read a biography of George Bellows at the National Gallery of Art
See some of Bellows’ War Series lithographs at the Harvard Art Museums
Read more about Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War series
Read a copy of the Bryce Report
Explore primary sources about America’s intervention in World War I
See how American artists responded to World War I
Learn more about the Liberty Bond campaigns and see other marketing materials
More to think about
Many artists created work in support of the war effort, including James Montgomery Flagg’s Uncle Sam, which encouraged enlistment in the armed forces. Why do you think Uncle Sam became so iconic, while Bellows’s War Series images didn’t?