Kerr Eby was born in 1890 in Tokyo, Japan, the son of Methodist missionaries from Canada. As a boy he worked as a printer’s apprentice in a newspaper office, which may have encouraged his interest in printing as an artistic medium. After graduating from high school in 1907, Eby moved to New York City to study art, first at the Pratt Institute, and later at the Art Students League. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, Eby, too, became involved. After unsuccessful efforts to obtain a commission as an artist, he enlisted and ultimately was assigned to the 40th Engineers, Artillery Brigade, Camouflage Division, which helped to protect the troopson the front. Eby was on the front in northeastern France, and in 1918, he participated in the battles of Château-Thierry and Saint-Mihiel, both instrumental in preventing the Germans from advancing on Paris. In addition to his work as a camoufleur, he also made drawings of the images he witnessed on the battlefield.
In 1936, concerned about the unstable world situation that would soon lead to World War II, Eby published his book War (Yale University Press, New Haven) which illustrated 28 prints and drawings he had made during his experience in World War I and which included an essay outlining his abhorrence of war and his opinion of its futility and barbarity. Although he was himself too old to serve during this Second World War, he served as a correspondent in the Pacific in the combat artist program developed by Abbott Laboratories (which was instrumental in the development of plasma and hired artists to depict its use in the War). He again witnessed much death and, again, recorded his experience in numerous prints and drawings. In creating anti-war works, Eby joined a long line of artists engaging in the subject, Goya being one of the most famous.