Friday, January 1, 2010

Camouflage Artist | C. Allan Gilbert

In his own lifetime, C. Allan Gilbert (1873-1929) was a widely published American illustrator, as well as an early contributor to animated films. Today, he would probably not be remembered at all were it not for the continued popularity of one of his illustrations, a momento mori titled All is Vanity (1892). It is a double image or visual pun in which the scene of a woman admiring herself in a mirror appears instead to be a skull, when viewed from a distance. During World War I, he was among a number of US artists who worked for the US Shipping Board (the Emergency Fleet Corporation) in applying dazzle camouflage to US merchant ships.

In 1918, in Nauticus: A Journal of Shipping, Insurance, Investments and Engineering (Vol 1 No 2, June 8), there is a note about the role of the US Navy in relation to the work of Gilbert and other civilian camoufleurs:

Supervision of all camouflaging of merchant vessels for the Shipping Board will be exercised by the Navy Department in the future…"The Navy Department will prepare the types and designs of camouflage painting for general use and, where practicable, design of camouflage painting applicable to particular ships. These design will be furnished the district camoufleurs through the Camouflage Section, Division of Steel Ship Construction of the Emergency Fleet Corporation. The district camoufleur will use the design most applicable to the form and type of ship to be camouflage painted. The district camoufleur shall not change the principle of the design furnished by the Navy Department, but may adopt such design to suit the particular ship which is being camouflage painted."