Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Camouflage Artist | Frederick J. Waugh

Camouflage of USS Proteus by Frederick J. Waugh (c1918)
In earlier posts, we've talked about American painter Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), a World War 1 ship camoufleur who worked with Everett L. Warner. As Warner describes in the notes he used for a postwar slide talk on ship camouflage, the 57-year-old marine artist Waugh was the team's most resourceful designer. As evidence, Warner in his notes describes Waugh's solution for "dazzle-painting" the collier USS Proteus, a cargo ship for carrying coal. Above (top) is a photograph of the starboard side of the painted wooden model of the plan proposed by Waugh, while below that is a 1918 photograph of the actual painted ship, as seen from the bow and the port side. Here is what Warner recalled in his notes about the process of designing it—

The eye is so accustomed to the normal operation of the laws of perspective that if you were to see a group of telegraph poles, and they had been so graded in height that the nearest one was much the shortest, you would be likely to think that the tall one in the distance was the nearest. I remember this design well because it cost me a box of cigars. When the model came in (a collier looks like an unfinished skyscraper afloat) it looked like such a difficult problem that I offered a box of cigars if any one of the designers could fool me with a design. Mr. [Frederick] Waugh won the box of cigars, but the joke was on him as he does not smoke. [It was] An effective design, but one belonging to [the] early period before we had entered the realm of solid geometry.


Cecelia Van Auken, COLLECTOR'S LONG-TIME LOVE AFFAIR WITH PAINTINGS OF FREDERICK WAUGH. Bridgeport Sunday Post (Bridgeport CT), July 19, 1970 , pp. 3 and 12—

The Waughs' idyllic life in Kent [CT] was interrupted in 1918, where they had moved four years previously, when Waugh, because of his extraordinary knowledge of the sea, was asked [by Everett Warner] to take part in the important work of marine camouflage being carried on by the Navy department. He went to Washington [DC] for the duration.


Anon, HAD TO FALL BACK ON LUNCH: Seemed the Only Thing Left to Which Host Could Invite His Artistic Friends. Dakota County Herald (Dakota City NE), January 19, 1922, p.2—

Mr. Heming tells an amusing little incident to disprove the general belief that artists are temperamental, dissipated creatures who thrive on the white lights. In the ancient days before prohibition Mr. Heming was in New York to invite American artists to exhibit in the Canadian national exhibit in Toronto. Gardner Symons, the well-known American artist, invited Heming and Frederick Waugh, another leading artist, to dinner at the National Arts club. "Let's go down and have a cocktail before lunch," said Symons. "I never take anything," said Heming. "Neither do I," said Waugh. Symons laughed. "That's funny," he said. "Neither do I, but anyway we'll have some cigars." "I don't smoke," said Waugh. "And I don't smoke," said Heming. "Well, this is a great joke," said Symons. "I don't smoke either, but I thought you fellows would at least take a cigar. Say, you eat, don't you?—because I've ordered lunch."


Anon, VISUAL THERAPY in Morning Herald (Hagerstown MD), March 10, 1953, p. 8—

Fine paintings on a hospital wall constitute a "visual therapy" and are helpful to the sick, New York hospital workers say…We think this very probable and are sure the routine paintings and prints on such walls up to now retard recovery…(A still-life showing a faded apple, a couple of green pears and a slice of melon once kept us laid up at least a week longer than was necessary.)…We remain a little skeptical about the masters…We want no doctor to prescribe a Picasso when we can get a good Frederick Waugh or Winslow Homer…A lot of widely heralded moderns make us sick…


Anon, MAKES UNIQUE PICTURES FROM BITS OF DRIFTWOOD: Many-Sided Waugh, Known to Milwaukee Through Marine Paintings, Expresses Inspiration in Diverse Forms, in the Milwaukee Sentinel, January 15, 1922 [announcing an exhibition of Waugh's driftwood artwork at the Milwaukee Art Institute]—

…When the Boer War was on and [Frederick] Waugh was painting in London  he even temporarily gave up the game of chance as to an artist's livelihood to rehandle sketches sent back to the London Graphic by officers and artists at the front. When no sketches came in, telegraphic description was all the data he needed for his series of spirited battle pictures.

His knowledge of sea-craft and ready enthusiasm made him a most valuable assistant in the bureau of camouflage during the late war.

…From his home in Mount Clair NJ, Waugh often went down to wander along the beach of his always bel0ved sea. The usual driftwood, remnants of ruined craft, bits of tree roots and gnarled branches from only the waves know where, have always fascinated him. He often gathered them up. Their curious shapes kindled his imagination. His creative desire wound itself around their blanched, smooth surfaces and he set about to make them beautiful, to incorporate them into art.

With knives and paints, brush and ingenious vision he worked these bits of driftwood into designs, pictures if you will, charming things, delicately colored.…

Twenty-eight drawings by Waugh, derived in part from gnarled wood shapes, were used as illustrations for a children's book titled The Clan of Munes (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). The original book illustrations were recently exhibited at the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University (Wichita KS) from January 25 through April 13, 2014. The same museum owns a large collection of more than 300 artworks by Waugh, donated in 1974 by Edwin A. Ulrich.


See also an earlier mention of Waugh in Vladimir Nabokov's scandalous novel, Lolita (New York: Knopf, 1992). Below A portrait of Waugh (1929) in Peter A. Juley and Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Peter A. Juley & Son, Portrait of Frederick Judd Waugh (1929)