Sunday, February 4, 2018

Camouflage Artist | Charles R. Capon

Charles R. Capon Bookplate
Above The bookplate of designer, typographer and World War I ship camoufleur Charles R. Capon.


Charles R. Capon (1884-1954) was born in Toronto, Canada, where he initially planned to become a lawyer. After only nine months in law school, he chose instead to study art, and enrolled at the Ontario Academy of Design in the same city. Subsequently, he worked for several years as a graphic artist for various printers and advertising firms.

By May 1914, he was sufficiently successful that his work was featured in The Graphic Arts magazine (Boston), in a selection described as “the work of designers and illustrators who are doing fine work in the graphic arts field” (see title page below). 

The Graphic Arts (May 1914)

In 1915, he studied at the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston. Two years later, he became the art director at the Amsden Studio in Cleveland.

In 1917-1918, he worked as a ship camouflage artist, probably as a civilian and most likely in connection with the Emergency Fleet Corporation. In 1918, he was a member of The American Society of Marine Camoufleurs, who were associated with muralist and camoufleur William Andrew Mackay.

Following the war, Capon established a studio in Boston. For many years, in addition to working for major advertising clients, he became well-known for his commissioned bookplate designs. In the Directory of Bookplate Artists (1921), he described his work as follows: “I work in pen and ink and wash. I specialize in decorative landscape and period decoration.…I have been making bookplates for 15 years.” In 1950, his bookplates were acquired by the Library of Congress.

Title panel for Map of Old Boston (1929)

Among his most striking artworks is a Map of Old Boston that he designed in 1929 for the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank; a thistle-themed cover for the 1938 Strathmore Handbook for the Strathmore Paper Company; and an illustration of a new building on campus for the cover of the 1950 Bowdoin College Bulletin.

Shortly before his death, Capon gave his entire collection of graphic arts books to the library at Colby College in Waterville ME. The year of his death is sometimes listed as 1955, but according to the New York Times, he died on November 2, 1954 in Hancock NH.

Strathmore Handbook Cover (1938)