Saturday, December 13, 2014

Camouflage Artist | Eliot O'Hara

Eliot O'Hara, Duval Street
Above Recently we ran across a reproduction of an on-site watercolor painting by American artist Eliot O’Hara (1890-1969) titled Duval Street (in Key West FL). Of course we could be totally wrong, but it’s tempting to imagine that the bow of this ship is painted in a striped dazzle camouflage scheme. That’s certainly odd, because there doesn’t seem to be any camouflage on the rest of the ship.

There is an additional reason to suspect it might be camouflage: O’Hara, who was already famous as a watercolorist in the 1940s, worked as a World War II ship camouflage artist in the US Navy’s camouflage section. He was stationed in Washington DC, where he worked under marine camoufleur Everett L. Warner. We know this in part because one of O’Hara’s WWII camouflage co-workers, Robert Hays, shared the following story with us in a letter in 1999—

Eliot O’Hara [was] a well-known watercolorist in the Washington DC circuit, who berated me one day for allowing people to come in to see him—it annoyed him. Even though everything was restricted and we all had badges permitting us to enter the area, only those with badges could enter and some were curious about his presence—ha! I felt like I was a baby sitter or something.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a wonderful photograph of O’Hara (below) at work in his studio. Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0015251.

O'Hara in his studio