Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Edward Morton | More Milwaukee Camouflage

Restoration of WPA mural by Edward Morton (1938)
Above A Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) mural (titled Winter Sports) by Wisconsin artist Edward Morton, commissioned in 1938 by the US Government for permanent installation in the post office at Oconomowoc WI. In the 1970s, the mural was taken down and thereafter kept in the basement. Fortunately, it was restored in 2003, and is once again on public display in the post office.


Many years ago, we taught for more than a decade at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. So did an aging artist named Edward Morton, who was then an adjunct instructor of drawing. I had just published a book on art and camouflage. If I had known better, I would have talked to him at length, in part because one day he said that he had served as an army camoufleur during World War II. I didn't follow up on it. He has long since died—and now I have plenty of questions to ask.

A few weeks ago, I ran across an article from the Milwaukee Sentinel (December 11, 1944), which includes a photograph of the young Ed Morton, home on leave from the army, painting a portrait of his wife. Here's what the article says, followed by the news photo—

On leave from camp at Maldon MO, Sergeant Edward L. Morton turned from painting things that do not exist to painting things that are real. In the army, Sgt. Morton is a camoufleur, but in civilian life he was an instructor at [Milwaukee's Layton School of Art] and won prizes for his own work at State Fair art shows. Here he is completing a portrait of his wife Dorothy, at the home of her parents…

Edward L. Morton, US Army camoufleur (1944)