Thursday, December 26, 2013

War Log of the Camouflaged Mauretania

Herbert Paus, Collier's magazine cover (1918)
The World War I dazzle camouflage of the RMS Mauretania (designed by British camoufleurs) was a sight to behold. Equally interesting is a 1919 painting of that ship (below) by American artist Burnell Poole (1884-1933), a US government artist and a wartime correspondent for Everybody's Magazine. To the right of it, at a distance, can be seen a second dazzle-painted ship.

Burnell Poole, painting of the RMS Mauretania (1919)

That same year, another rendition of the Mauretania was reproduced (below) in the June 1919 issue of a magazine called Printing Art. It was lauded by editors as an effective use of a dazzle motif—

The war has brought out a great many wonderful effects in decoration, illustration, etc., and among these the various uses of the camouflage must be placed early in any list. Naturally this camouflaging of ships has lent itself better to pictorial illustration than to decoration, but in the insert [in this issue, facing page 304] will be seen a decoration adapted from camouflage designs for the cover of a booklet for the Cunard Steam Ship Company, Limited. This booklet, "The War Log of the Mauretania," while small in size, carries on the cover such an appropriate handling of this peculiar design that we are very glad to be able to show it as this time. The production is the work of Gaines Thurman, Inc., of New York City (p. 312).

Cunard Booklet Cover (c1919)

At the time, the Mauretania was transporting Canadian and American soldiers to and back from Europe. Its astonishing complex design was well-known and widely admired. A year before Cunard came out with its war log, a detail of the ship appeared on the cover of Collier's: The National Weekly (June 15, 1918), in a painting by American illustrator Herbert Paus (1880-1946), as shown at the top of this blog post.