Thursday, March 29, 2012

Camouflage Artist | Follette Isaacson

Bedazzled  /  RISD Camouflage Blog

About a year ago, in a post called WWI Ship Camouflage Teams, we listed ten locations around the country where there were teams of ship camouflage artists, who had the responsibility (during World War I) of applying camouflage patterns to ships. The seaports we cited were Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Tampa, New Orleans and San Francisco. In addition, we embarked on an ongoing project of compiling the names of the artists who served in those districts.

The motivation for this came partly from having seen some of the 450 colored lithographic camouflage plans (the diagrams used by the artists in painting the ships in the harbors) that are housed in the  Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design. The school was given this rare set of plans in 1919 by artist Maurice L. Freedman (a student at RISD after the war), who had been the chief camoufleur of the district centered in Jacksonville FL. Above is a link to Bedazzled, the RISD dazzle camouflage blog, where some of the plans have been posted online. Also available are high quality full-color prints of the plans, at actual size.

We’ve since learned that there were eleven districts during WWI, not ten. The eleventh was called the Gulf District, and included the Louisiana seaports of Beaumont, Orange and Morgan City, and the Texas cities of Houston and Port Arthur. The chief camoufleur of that district was an artist named Follette Isaacson, whose wartime work was featured in a news article titled “Texans at Ports on Gulf Baffled Enemy Subs by Camouflage: At Port Arthur, Beaumont, Houston and Orange They Made Ships Look Like Something Else,” in the San Antonio Evening News, January 31, 1919, pp. 1-3. The article was based on an interview with Isaacson at the end of the war, when the censorship ban had been lifted.