Sunday, June 26, 2016

Concealing the Land: Camouflage from Above

Above Cover of Sonja Dümpelmann, Flights of Imagination: Aviation | Landscape | Design. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2014. Camouflage, landmark alteration, and aerial disorientation in both World Wars are examined throughout, but also featured is an extensive 50-page section on "Concealing the Land: Creating Invisible Landscapes of War and Peace" with subsections on "Camouflage as Art-Science," "Camouflage as Regional Planning," "Camouflage as Urban Design," "Camouflage as Landscape Architecture," "Living Camouflage," and "Camouflage for Peacetime."

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cruise Boat Camouflage | Katy Mutton

Above Australian artist Katy Mutton has undertaken a public art project (concurrent with the World War I Centenary), called In Plain Sight, in which she has designed a glaring dazzle camouflage scheme for a small cruise boat.

Beginning in October 2016 and continuing for a year, the vessel will provide tours on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra (Australia's famous capital), as part of the Contour 556 Arts Festival. In the artist's words, the project will play up various aspects of stealth and surveillance: "Using bright, bold mixed patterns the transformed vessel will invite attention while simultaneously interfering with the viewer's perception of its form and detail." More>>>

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 15

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the styles" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

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Anon, THE BAFFLE SYSTEM OF CAMOUFLAGING SHIPS in Monroe Journal (Monroe NC), September 17, 1918, p. 2—

…The district camoufleur at one great [US] port was called to the telephone late one Saturday afternoon—when most folks were ending their week's work. The agents of a big steamship company requested that one of their vessels, an 8000-ton freighter, due to sail the following Monday morning, should be camouflaged.

"All right!" was the matter-of-course reply to the most unusual request. And an expert camoufleur was immediately assigned to the task. A paint concern was instructed to deliver the necessary supplies to the dock, arrangements were made for a crew of painters, the design for the vessel was speedily selected and by midnight the marking out of the design on the ship was accomplished. The paint supplies arrived some time during the middle of the night, a crew of 62 painters showed up promptly next morning and at 5:30 on that Sunday afternoon the ship was completed, and she sailed with her precious cargo for our forces overseas exactly on schedule time….

Answers (top to bottom) Marc Chagall, Romare Bearden, Amedeo Modigliani, and Max Weber.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

La Baionnette Camouflage Cover | Jacques Nam

Cover illustration (1917), by French camoufleur Jacques Nam
Above La Baionnette was a weekly French satirical magazine that was published during World War I, from 1914 to 1918. Each issue focused on a theme, and this is the cover illustration for the 23 August 1917 edition. As is evident from the signature at the bottom left, the artist was Jacques Nam (aka Jacques Lehmann or Jacques Lehmann Nam) (1881-1974), who served as a French Army camoufleur. In civilian life, he was primarily known for political caricature and for stylized animal portraits (ad nauseum), especially cats—ca-choo!

•••

George W. McCree, "Recruiting Engineers for the World War in Minnesota" in Minnesota History Bulletin. Vol 3 (May 1, 1920, p. 350)—

One day a man came into the office very excited. He was an artist, a scene painter in one of our theatres, and he was very anxious to get into Company C of the Twenty-Fifth Engineers. This was a company made up of camouflage artists. This fellow was a dandy man for that organization but he was an inveterate cigarette smoker and had one hundred percent of artistic temperament. Before he went up for his preliminary physical examination, I spoke to him quietly because I knew his heart was beating about a thousand times a minute and that he would never pass in that condition. When I thought he was all right I let him go and then telephoned the noncommissioned officer in charge at the recruiting station, telling him what kind of a man was coming to see him and that if there was nothing organically wrong to let him pass because he was a very desirable man for the camouflage unit. About three minutes after the man left he came back and said, "Oh! Mr. McCree pray that I may be passed." He was passed and he was so elated that it was about four days before he could get his feet back to earth so that he could go to [Fort] Snelling for his final examination. After his elation he became tremendously depressed; every little while he would come in to ask me if I thought he would pass and each time I was requested to pray for him. At last I got him off to Snelling and sent him on his way assuring him that I would pray for him. Believing that in this case work was more efficacious than faith, I telephoned Snelling and told the authorities how anxious I was to have this man accepted. Soon thereafter he left for American University [the camp in Washington DC, where WWI US Army camoufleurs were being trained] to join his regiment.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 14

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Isabel Anderson, Zigzagging. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918—

I was not disappointed on seeing the British camouflaged boats! They exceeded even my wildest dreams. The British idea is not to make the ship invisible, but to deceive as to its direction and length—the bow, for instance, often being painted to represent the stern. They were even sometimes made to look like two boats—unbelievably queer! One had a destroyer under full steam painted on her side. The prominent colors seemed to be green, blue, white, and black; sometimes done in figures, or resembling a Scottish plaid, or squares and triangles, or strange cubist designs. There were curling, crazy lines—often carried on to the lifeboats, which were painted half and half. These designs are quite incomprehensible to the lay mind. One wonders if some cubist artist has gone entirely mad—and perhaps the whole world, too.

Answers (top to bottom) John James Audubon, William Harnett, László Moholy-Nagy, and Édouard Manet.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 13

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

George Fitch, "Cubist Art" in the Washington Herald, April 21, 1913—

To paint cubist pictures requires great genius and self restraint. The painter must abandon all previous ideas of art, nature and religion, and paint as nearly as possible in straight lines. This can best be done in the ordinary strait jacket, so popular in our leading institutions for the regulation of advanced and explosive thought.

Answers (top to bottom) Max Ernst, Irene Rice Pereira, Frank Stella and John Singer Sargent.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Camouflage Hoodies | Sinister French Artillery Robes

early WWI French camouflage (c1914)
In earlier blog entries (such as one on camouflaged robes, and a second on French camouflage and criminals), we've posted information about the hooded outfits that were devised by French artists who were serving in artillery teams at the beginning of World War I. As I've described elsewhere—

 …what we call camouflage was first promoted by artists serving in the French Army in the early years of WWI. While there is some confusion about which individual initiated the ideas, the reasons are not in contention. Soldiers assigned to artillery teams were dismayed by the ease with which airborne enemy spotters could find and report the positions of their field artillery. In response, they initiated two countermeasures: the application of disruptive ("broken color") patterns on the surface of their cannons, and the donning by those in artillery teams of sinister-looking hooded robes, called cagoules (they closely resembled the outfit worn by a French crime novel character called Fantomas (c. 1911) or darkened paint-stained versions of Ku Klux Klan ceremonial robes).•


A surprising number of photographs of these hoodie-like camouflage outfits have survived, including a handful of full-color images in the collection of the Bibliothéque Nationale de France, and can be accessed online (posted here are restored, cropped and cleaned-up renditions of those). Other images of these outfits, whether black and white photographs and drawings, or painted illustrations by artists, were also commonly reproduced in contemporaneous magazines, such as on the cover of Scientific American (September 29, 1917). Even a few of the robes have survived.

• From Roy R. Behrens, "Khaki to khaki (dust to dust): the ubiquity of camouflage in human experience" in Ann Elias, Ross Harley and Nicholas Tsoutas, eds., Camouflage Cultures: Beyond the Art of Disappearance. Sydney AU: Sydney University Press, 2015, pp. 1-15.

 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 12

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

J.M. Daiger, "Makes Warship Look Like Tub" in The Breckenridge News (Cloverport KY), January 16, 1918, p. 6—

The older naval officers include to the opinion that the regulation navy gray by itself is better than any camouflage that the artists have invented, and they are frankly skeptical about these riots of color and freak designs that the scientific application of one of the fine arts is smearing over their ships.…

…These vessels close up look like scrambled rainbows or like the palette of an artist in his cups. 

Answers (top to bottom) Arthur Lismer, Joan Miró, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 11

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Henry Charles Witwer, From Baseball to Boches. Boston: Small, Maynard and Co, 1918, p. 31—

The whole boat was painted by a set of maniac painters opposed to prohibition, and the foreman must have seen that nobody died of thirst while they was on the job. There's a swab of pink here and a swab of blue there, and in between they got samples of chocolate, strawberry, orange, vanilla, and allied flavors. This is called camouflage and is supposed to keep the submarines from seein' the ship, and, in the event they do see it, to scare 'em away.

Answers (top to bottom) Francis Picabia, John Graham, Edgar Dégas, and El Lissitzky.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 10

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Katharine Kuh, Break-Up: The Core of Modern Art. Greenwich CT: Graphic Arts Society, 1969, p. 11—

The art of our century has been characterized by shattered surfaces, broken color, segmented compositions, dissolving forms and shredded images. Curiously insistent is this consistent emphasis on break-up.

Answers (top to bottom) Thomas Eakins, Jacques-Louis David, William Holman Hunt, and Mary Cassatt.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 9

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

William Marion Reedy in "Hosiery and Skirts, Etc." in Goodwin's Weekly, c1918—

We want a [J. Edgar] Hoover to regulate skirts and waists and stockings—yes and the cosmetics of the ladies. The paint one beholds! And the ladies are all past impressionists. Their faces rival the works of Matisse or Nevinson or Picabia. They are as barbaric as Gauguin, as cubist or vorticist as Gaudier-Brzeska. Some of them look like the camouflage ships on the river or in the bay.

Answers (top to bottom) R.B. Kitaj, Charles Meere, Gustave Courbet, and Théodore Géricault.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Watson-Norfolk Camouflage Scheme | F.M. Watson


One of the earliest, most informative publications about modern American ship camouflage was a two-part magazine article in the US Naval Institute Proceedings, in July 1971 and February 1972. Both articles were titled "Ship Camouflage: Deceptive Art," the first one dealing with World War I, the second with World War II. The texts were written by Robert F. Sumrall (the curator then of ship models at the US Naval Academy Museum), and were greatly enriched by photographs, charts and drawings from his collection. more>>>

Surely, anyone who saw Sumrall's initial article was especially taken aback by photographs of two ships, USS Anniston (formerly the USS Montgomery) and the USS Nebraska. Both ships had been painted with a strange experimental design called the Watson-Norfolk scheme. It was called that because it had been proposed by F.M. Watson, who was the chief ship painter at the Norfolk Navy Yard. We blogged about this once before, when we featured a replica of one of the ships, by model-builder Wolfgang Kring.

Shown above are photographs not of the USS Nebraska but of the USS Anniston. Apparently they were the only two ships to which this pattern was applied (c1917). In both cases, as these photographs show, the left or port side of the ship was painted in a geometric zigzag plan, while the right or starboard side had a strikingly different pattern of multi-colored target forms.

There remains the mystery of just who F.M. Watson was. He may have had connections with North Carolina, since the only online works we've found are on the website of the North Carolina Digital Collections, which has 14 wartime posters signed by Watson. If so, it may be relevant that there is a grave for F.M. Watson (no name, only initials again) in the Elmwood Cemetery in Fremont NC. His dates are listed on the tombstone as 1877-1938, a typical time span for a WWI veteran.

The Watson posters in the NC collection are in dreadful shape, for the simple reason that they were (apparently) published not on a printing press, but through a blueprint process, which is notoriously impermanent. I have cleaned up one of those (in brown coloration, not blue), in an attempt to strengthen its contrast. The result is below.

Poster by F.M. Watson (c1918)


By artistic standards, Watson's Over the Top: Third Liberty Loan poster is the best of his posters. The others are blueprints and somewhat clearer to read, but the drawn images, hand lettering and page layouts are amateur. Whatever the circumstances that enabled him to design the camouflage for a ship, the naiveté of his posters suggests that he was either untrained or not very capable as a professional designer. This is also reinforced by his amateur method of signing his name (shown below).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Camouflage Theatrical Costumes | Lera Nekhaeva

Costume designs for Gogol's "The Nose" © Lera Nekhaeva
Above About eight years ago, I was fortunate to work with a young, talented design student from Russia, named Lera Nekhaeva. At the time, I was researching camouflage (of course), and preparing a book titled Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009). Before studying in the US, Lera had also studied theatrical design, and costume design specifically. When she showed me her sketches (see above) for a suite of striped costumes for a stage interpretation (never actually produced) of Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose," we were both delighted by the resemblance of her costumes to World War I British ship camouflage or dazzle-painting. But, as I recall, a more direct influence for her were the striped sentry stations (see image below) that are used in Russia and other countries. I don't think I had seen one then. Later, I published her costume designs in my book.

WWI striped guard house or sentry station

Applying a Dazzle Camouflage Scheme | Video

Ian Rolls, Elektra (2015), Jersey Evening Post
Above In 2015, a UK artist named Ian Rolls, who lives on the Island of Jersey, designed a dazzle camouflage scheme for a vintage American Army tugboat, Elektra. With the assistance of friends and support from the World War One Centenary program, the project was completed in two months. Wonderfully, the process was recorded by Little River Pictures in a delightful time-lapse video, which can be accessed through Vimeo here. More>>>

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 8

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Henry B. Beston, Full Speed Ahead: Tales from the Log of a Correspondent with Our Navy. Garden City NY: Doubleday, Page and Co, 1919, pp. 122-123—

I have an indistinct memory of a terrible mess [a WWI dazzle-camouflaged ship] of milky-pink, lemon yellow and rusty black, which earned for the vessel displaying it the odious title of "The Boil." We saw the prize monstrosity in mid-ocean. Every school of camouflage had evidently had a chance at her. She was striped, she was blotched; she was painted in curves; she was slashed with jagged angles; she was bone gray; she was pink; she was purple; she was green; she was blue; she was egg yellow. To see her was to gasp and turn aside. We had quite a time picking a suitable name for her, but finally decided on the Conscientious Objector, though her full title was "The State of Mind of a CO on Being Sent to the Front."

Answers (top to bottom) Charles Willson Peale, Georges Seurat, Gustave Caillebotte, and Grant Wood.

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 7

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Anon, "Baffling the Undersea Pirate" in National Marine, March 1919, p. 30—

Each nation seemed to have a characteristic type of [ship] camouflage and after a little practice you could usually spot a ship's nationality by her style of camouflage long before you could make out her ensign.

Answers (top to bottom) Paul Gauguin, Sofonisba Anguissola, Rosa Bonheur, and Marie Müller Landsknecht.

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 6

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Paul K. Saint-Amour, "Modernist Reconnaissance" in Modernism/Modernity Vol 10 No 1 (2003)—

By 1918, young British aviators were being trained to see an avant-garde exhibition unfurling beneath their cockpits: a First World War Air Force photo atlas for new pilots used "FUTURIST country" and "CUBIST country" in its taxonomy, alongside more everyday mnemonic headings such as "FRUIT GROWING" and "PATCHWORK QUILTING."

Answers (top to bottom) Fernand Léger, Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp and Paolo Ucello.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 5

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. New York: Random House, 1933—

Another thing that interested us enormously was how different the camouflage of the french looked from the camouflage of the germans, and then once we came across some very neat camouflage and it was american. The idea was the same but as after all it was different nationalities who did it the difference was inevitable. The color schemes were different, the way of placing them was different, it made plain the whole theory of art and its inevitability.

Answers (top to bottom) John Everett Mallais, Salvador Dali, Edward Wadsworth, and Max Beckmann.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hypothetical Dazzle Camouflage Schemes | Part 4

Above Hypothetical dazzle ship camouflage schemes (2016) by Roy R. Behrens, "in the style" of four famous artists. Can you name them? Answers are at the bottom of this blogpost. more>>>

•••

Anon, Camouflage at Sea in The Sailors’ Magazine and Seamen’s Friend, 1918, p. 154—

All styles of camouflage are on the highways and byways of the sea.… Some go in for color and some for line. Our own ship’s style is suggestive of the old court jester’s suits, with parti-colored diamond patches. Black-and-white effects are very fetching, however, with the lines caught up into unexpected turns and slashes and bows.

Answers (top to bottom) Diego Velasquez, Conrad Marca-Relli, Charles Sheeler, and Corita Kent.