Sunday, April 18, 2010

Camouflage in Lolita

Believe it or not, there are references to two World War I camouflage artists in Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel, Lolita (New York: Knopf 1992), which was later made into a Hollywood film by Stanley Kubrick (reproduced here is  the film poster from 1997). On page 199, in a lament about Lolita's pictorial taste, the character Humbert Humbert mentions Iowa painter Grant Wood (an US Army camoufleur in WWI) and New England seascape painter Frederick Waugh (who was most likely the finest of the US naval camoufleurs). Here is what Humbert concludes about them—

For her birthday I bought her [Lolita] a bicycle, the doe-like and altogether charming machine already mentioned—and added to this a History of Modern American Painting…but my attempt to refine her pictorial taste was a failure; she wanted to know if the guy noon-napping on Doris Lee's hay was the father of the pseudo-voluptuous hoyden in the foreground, and could not understand why I said Grant Wood or Peter Hurd was good, and Reginald Marsh or Frederick Waugh awful.