Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Glyn L. Evans | Dazzle-Painted Ships of WWI

book cover (2015)
Good news. You may remember British historian Glyn L. Evans, whose 2010 book on UK maritime artist Kenneth Denton Shoesmith we featured in an earlier blogpost. At the time, we reproduced a painting by Shoesmith of a WWI dazzle-camouflage ship, which the author had provided us with.

The good news is that the same author has now published a new full-color book on WWI ship camouflage, titled Dazzle-Painted Ships of WWI (see full-color cover above). It's a 76-page softbound book, with more than 50 illustrations, many of which are in color. It can be ordered directly from the author, with payment made through PayPal. The cost (with shipping and handling included) is $25 USD (or the GPB equivalent). Shipments to the US from the UK will be made by airmail, in a bubble-wrap mailing envelope. In making the PayPal payment (to evans19191(at)btinternet.com) make sure to include your name and shipping address.

Among the book's reproductions is a US War Bonds poster (1918) of a German U-boat in the act of surrendering to a US Navy four-stack destroyer (as shown below). Steaming safely past in the background is a large troop transport. The painting is by American artist L.A. Shafer (1866-1940), whom we've also blogged about.

L.A. Shafer poster (1918), public domain

Friday, September 18, 2015

Khaki Hunting Outfits in Camouflage History

Article on hunters' use of camouflage (1917)
The following is an excerpt from a syndicated article that was reprinted in newspapers throughout the US during World War I (see original page above).

SOLDIERS' KHAKI UNIFORMS CAMOUFLAGE RESULT OF HUNTERS’ EXPERIENCE in Fort Wayne Sentinel (Fort Wayne IN), December 11, 1917, p. 16—

While the term camouflage may be applied in the world war to masking batteries and hiding troops from enemy fire, it only describes the tricks long in use among hunters for years, and even among the American Indians, according to Lester Pritchard of Battle Creek, who has won more than a local reputation as a hunter.

According to Louis Ebert, a well-known hunter, camouflage has been employed by Missourians for years. “At the Culvre Club and at the Lemp Club duck hunter used camouflage,” Mr. Ebert said, “Culvre Club members have built large tanks whose color is a dark brown and sunk them in the streams. The hunters hide in the tanks and wait for ducks to come close enough to be shot, then they poke their guns over the top of the tanks and fire. At the Lemp Club trenches similar to the kind dug by solders in France are being used as a hiding place for duck hunters. The hunters, garbed in khaki and squatting in the trenches are protected from the keen eye of the duck or goose because the brown of their togs and the surroundings harmonize."

Friday, September 4, 2015

Camouflage Artist | Robert Lawson

Vintage pencil sharpener (c1938). P.D. Whitson Collection.
Above Vintage pencil sharpener by Walt Disney Enterprises, which produced an animated film of The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf in 1938. Two years earlier, Robert Lawson had illustrated the original book version (New York: Viking 1936). P.D. Whitson Collection.


The papers of American illustrator and US Army camouflage artist Robert Lawson (1892-1957) are in the University of Minnesota Children's Research Collections. Other materials (mostly illustrations, including Lawson's book mock-up for Ferdinand the Bull) are also housed in the Frederick R. Gardner Collection of Robert Lawson in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Among the latter materials are a sketchbook and several letters that date from 1917 to 1918, at which time Lawson was stationed in France, as a US Army sergeant, assigned to camouflage.

For a detailed account of the service of Lawson and others in the American Camouflage Corps, see Barry Faulkner's Sketches from an Artist's Life (Dublin, New Hampshire: William Bauhan, 1973). While in France, the American camoufleurs produced amusing theatrical shows for the French children whose mothers were aiding the war effort by constructing camouflage nets. According to Faulkner, "It was his [Robbie Lawson's] sense of fantasy and humor which made our musical shows successful."

A news article about Lawson (with excerpts from an interview) was published in the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston SC) on Sunday, November 30, 1930, on page 1 of the magazine section. Written by Rose Henderson and supplemented by Lawson's illustrations, the article was titled ROBERT LAWSON—MASTER OF FANTASY. The following are Lawson quotes, excerpted from the article—

In 1914 two great calamities occurred. The World War in Europe was one and my having to work and attempt to earn a living was the other. Europe's struggle is now more or less settled, but mine still continues.

From 1914 to 1917 I was a New Yorker and began to absorb things they hadn't taught in art school. My art activities were varied and pretty bad…

The French and English having by that time muddled the war all up, I joined the Camouflage Section of the Army which, as you are well aware, after a few years in France managed to get things straightened out. That being over, I really got to work, and have been doing illustrations and commercial drawings ever since, except for a period when my wife [née Marie Abrams] and I did nothing but Christmas cards.

Later in the article, the author (Rose Henderson) writes—

The Camouflage Section was composed of artists, architects, interior decorators, movie people, sailors, stage hands—loosely organized, quite comic and very efficient. He [Lawson] enjoyed long nights of talk with painters, sculptors, architects and musicians, in cafes, in dugouts, freight cars, tents or on the vine covered terraces of southern France. There were freedom and honesty in those conversations among artist soldiers far away from home and profession and conventional habits of thought and life.