Friday, April 25, 2014

Trompe l'Oeil Camouflage

Richard W. Rummell (c1918)
Anon (1919)
Above (top) During World War I, American artist Richard W. Rummell (1848-1924) made this watercolor sketch of the starboard side of a single steamship, camouflaged by painting on its surface trompe l'oeil images of three other ships advancing diagonally toward the right. The caption on the painting reads: Side of steamship painted to represent Fleet of Vessels going diagonally forward to Starboard. This ploy was indeed proposed during the war, but most likely it wasn't ever carried out. Courtesy US National Archives. (bottom) Below that is another (unattributed) artist's rendering of the same idea, as published in Lloyd Seaman, "Masterpieces of Navy Camouflage" in Popular Mechanics magazine. Vol 31 (1919), pp. 217-219. The article's author's caption reads: The masterpiece of navy camouflage: Destroyers painted upon the sides of the ocean leviathans. No Hun submarine commander cared to face the redoubtable destroyers with their deadly depth bombs. Ordinarily, no time was spent in investigation—the U-boats dived and fled the spot.


From "Camouflage" in American Architect. Vol 117 (1920)—

Now that the war [WWI] is over the camouflage artist may be seeking occupation, and the Architect's Journal of London has facetiously thought of a manner in which his talents might be used for the general good. We are surrounded by many buildings, which cause us daily pain, but which serve some utilitarian purpose. Why should not the camouflage artist so decorate the fronts of these buildings as to make them absolutely invisible from the street? It might excite wonder to see some hundreds of people passing into a building which apparently consisted of one floor only, but this would not matter. We should only consider that there were more marvels than had been dreamed of in our philosophy, while local authorities would have to determine what new buildings should be allowed to be visible.

Below A somewhat comparable concept: A World War II-era Russian photograph (taken by Alexander Krasavin on 9 August 1942) of the Bolshoi Theatre camouflaged by the application, on its facade, of a painting of an entirely different building. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons / RIA Novosti.

Camouflaged Bolshoi Theatre (1942)

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