Saturday, July 2, 2016

Inept Trompe l'Oeil Camouflage in WWI

Camp Sherman, Chillicothe OH, building camouflage (1919)

Distant view of same building (1919)
Surely, some of the least persuasive camouflage of World War I was illusionistic building camouflage, devised by Allied infantry camoufleurs. Sometimes it was designed by artists who were assumed to be experts because, as civilians, they had worked or studied as artists. Too often, apparently, they may not have been sufficiently skilled as painters, nor did they genuinely understand the conditions that contribute to effective camouflage. There is ample indication of that in wartime vintage photographs of the use of quaint pictorial scenes (inept trompe l'oeil realism) on the sides of buildings, which can't have fooled anyone. Show here (above and below) are various examples of that from government photographs from WWI.

As was featured in an earlier post, it was common to use perspective illusions in setting up phony pictorial scenes.


Henry Berry [American artist, writer and WWI camoufleur], Make the Kaiser Dance. NY: Doubleday, 1978, p. 206—

None of us, including the captain, knew a goddamn thing about camouflage, but it got us out of all the drilling and what have you.

309th Engineers, Camp Taylor KY (1918)

European building camouflage (c1918)

Ambulances painted on building, Camp Taylor KY (1918)
Camouflaged Naval Air Station in FL (c1919)