The DIA Military Art Collection comprises more than 1000 paintings and drawings completed between 1965 and 1989 by Agency artists. DIA released a set of lithographs featuring selections from this collection in October 1996 during its 35th anniversary celebration. These lithographs were a fitting acknowledgment this fine art and commemorated the Agency’s continuing support to the warfighter and decision maker.
DIA artists completed this series of paintings during the Cold War when the Soviet Union posed the major threat to the security of the United States. The Agency commissioned these works of military art to illustrate publications and support official briefings. DIA analysts and artists worked closely to achieve an accurate portrayal of the military system being illustrated. The artwork often depicted classified photography or imagery that could not be used in its original form. Many of these paintings were classified and have only recently been declassified.
The artists worked as visual information specialists in the Illustrations Department of DIA, located in the “B” Building of Arlington Hall Station, Virginia during the first two decades of the Agency’s existence. By the early-1980’s, DIA employed as many as five artist to perform this unique function. In 1984, the Illustrations Department moved to the newly completed Defense Intelligence Analysis Center (DIAC) building at Bolling Air Force Base.
Agency artists executed many of their finest selections of military art in the 1980s for the DIA publication Soviet Military Power. DIA published ten editions of this acclaimed “White Paper” between 1981 and 1991 (the 1991 it was retitled Military Forces in Transition). The artists completed about 150 of the paintings in the collection expressly for Soviet Military Power. Unfortunately, the superb paintings done for Soviet Military Power coincided with the end of this type of artwork at the Agency.
Computer-generated graphics have replaced this kind of illustrative art since the late 1980s. Edward Cooper is the only one of the original visual information specialists still employed at the Agency. He continues to work in the graphics office at DIA, but now sits at a computer rather than at a drawing table. The other artists have long since retired or moved on. Some including Cooper, continue to paint in their free time or retirement.
The Director, Lieutenant General Patrick M. Hughes, USA, approved a plan in May 1996 to conserve, display, publish, and lithograph the DIA Military Art Collection. This was in response to a DIA History Office initiative to safeguard the artwork and exploit the works for the benefit of the Agency. This effort also conformed to the Director’s interest in placing military art in DIA’s work spaces and enhancing the appearance of the DIAC.
The paintings have been inventoried, sorted, and stored as historical artifacts. The DIA History Office and Publications Division completed printing the first set of twenty lithographs in 1996. The Agency plans to print a second set of lithographs and a book illustrating the artwork in the near future. Some of the best if the original artwork, the lithographs, and artifacts are on display in the 4th floor museum area of the DIAC. They represent a unique historical record of our mission of providing Defense Intelligence in service to the Nation.