Friday, December 22, 2017

Reuterdahl Camouflage Mural in Missouri Capitol

Mural in Missouri State Capitol by Henry Reuterdahl (1921)
Swedish-born American artist Henry Reuterdahl (1871-1925) was a prominent albeit mysterious participant in World War I ship camouflage. We’ve talked about him in earlier blogposts, including a brief discussion about The Navy Guarded the Road to France, his mural on display in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. 

There is an infomative overview of this and the other artworks in this building in a book by Bob Priddy, titled The Art of the Missouri Capitol: History in Canvas, Bronze, and Stone, including a vivid photograph of Reuterdahl’s mural (shown above). Thanks to Steve Sitton, administrator at the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site, for calling our attention to this.


NAVAL PAINTING IN MISSOURI CAPITOL. Reuterdahl’s Portrayal of Missourians’ Encounter With U-Boat Installed in State House. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 21, 1921, p. 17—

JEFFERSON CITY—The first mural painting of the navy to be placed in a State Capitol in the United States is being installed on the south side of the east wing of the State Capitol this week by Lieutenant-Commander Henry Reuterdahl USNRF, as part of the decoration of the Capitol.

This painting, on which Reuterdahl has spent more than four months, portrays the work of Missourians in the navy during the recent war in handling troop convoys.

The center foreground is the deck of the destroyer Wainwright, commanded during the war by Capt. J.K. Taussig of St. Louis. The destroyer is in action against a submarine, her gun crews being busy, while other sailors prepare to launch “Ash Can” depth bombs on the U-boat. Capt. Taussig, glasses focussed on the enemy craft, is shown prominently near one of the guns, watching the effect of a shot from which the smoke and flash are about the gun muzzle. A photograph of this painting was published in the Post-Dispatch rotogravure section January 9.

Higher up on the picture are the Wadsworth, commanded by Capt. Poteet; the Orizaba, Capt. R.D. White; the Finland, Commander Graham, all of Missouri, and the New Orleans, Cleveland, Kansas and Susquehanna, all commanded by Missourians.

Wartime Camouflage Shows

These ships, steaming in convoy formation, are shown in their wartime camouflage, just as they actually appeared, the lines of the vessels, the camouflage designs and other details having been copied by Reuterdahl, from the war models of the navy and loaned for the preparation of this painting.

The picture is in the brilliant coloring which marks all of the work of Reuterdahl, regarded as one of the leading marine artists.

…Reuterdahl, who is to receive $2500 for his picture, came here in his naval uniform, doffing the gold braid cap and jacket and donning a paint-stained artist’s tunic while giving the final touches he desired to add after the painting had gone on the wall. He expects to finish his work and depart for New York tomorrow.


Reproduced below is yet another Reuterdahl painting of camouflaged ships (c1919), in which the USS Allen is shown escorting two troopships, the SS France and the USS Mount Vernon, as they cross the Atlantic Ocean. Other ships are also shown.

Painting by Henry Reuterdahl (c1919)