The Old Print Shop

Kerr Eby


Kerr Eby was a Canadian printmaker born in Tokyo, Japan, where his father was working as a missionary. Eby is perhaps best known for his war images, having served in both World Wars. "The Great Black Cloud" is one of his most famous prints, depicting an ominous sky above a seemingly insignificant platoon of soldiers as they march across a war-torn landscape. 

Eby moved to the United States at the age of eighteen and took up study at Pratt Institute and the Art Students League of New York. He enlisted in the Army in 1917, where he served in the Ambulance Corp before being transferred to the Army Corps of Engineers. His drawings and memories of the Great War resulted in many well-known etchings and lithographs, which he produced after his return. 

“What I do remember and brilliantly—is what [war] looked like and felt like. The men like maggots in a cheese—and seemingly moving as aimlessly. The feeling on the night movements. The endless walking in a semi-coma with perhaps your hand on a gun barrel to keep you steady with, always the danger of going to sleep on your feet and being crushed by a caisson behind.” 

Yale University Press published his book "War" in 1936, in which Eby discussed his abhorrence for war, and used his drawings and prints to illustrate what he and his fellow soldier had gone through during the Great War. The book came as a result of the growing tension in Europe and the threat of World War II lingering on the horizon. The fateful day would come just a few years later, when World War II was declared in 1939. When the United States inevitably joined, Eby enlisted as a combat artist under the Abbott Laboratories program. He served mainly in the Pacific Theater.

World War II would ultimately spell Eby's demise, not from combat, but disease. He contracted a tropical illness while serving in Bougainville and died of complications at his home in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1946.

When he wasn’t making war related artwork, Eby was producing delightful New England scenes. He had a particular love for snowy landscapes, but also made prints of outdoor sporting, such as fishing and clamming, busy marinas, animals and other elements.

Eby was a member of the Brooklyn Society of Etchers and was an elected member of National Academy of Design.