Sunday, February 28, 2010

Camouflage Artist | William Andrew Mackay

William Andrew Mackay (1876-1939) was a well-known American muralist, who also played a prominent role in World War I ship camouflage. Shown here are three photographs of him, one of which (top left) was probably made near the end of his life, by Peter A. Juley and Son. He is considerably younger in the other two photographs, which are wartime publicity photographs made by the US Government (probably the US Navy) and subsequently reproduced in popular magazines. 

At the time, Mackay was working for the US Shipping Board (Emergency Fleet Corporation), for which he was in charge of painting camouflage on merchant ships in the New York district. Earlier in the war, Mackay had proposed a camouflage scheme, which became one of only five such schemes to be approved for use. Later in the war, all US ship camouflage (military and civilian) was overseen by the US Navy's camouflage section (headed by Harold Van Buskirk). 

Officially, Mackay and his artists were not permitted to design camouflage, only to adapt designs that were provided to them by the design subsection of the camouflage unit (headed by Everett L. Warner). Evidently, Mackay resented this lack of acknowledgment of his expertise and all but ignored the restrictions. Later, he founded a camouflage school (c1920) and published a Handbook on Ship Camouflage (1937). In the top right photo, he is applying a camouflage scheme to a wooden ship model, and in the lower photo he is studying a camouflaged model through a portable viewing device that simulates the  point of view of a submarine periscope.