Saturday, July 4, 2020

Seven to seventy | Edward Simmons looking back

Edward Simmons, Girl Reading (1893)
Edward Simmons, From Seven to Seventy: Memories of a Painter and a Yankee. New York: Harpers, 1922, p. 341—

…and then came the War. I was too old to go; they even refused me in the Camouflage section, although I insist I would have been of use.

Although I was not allowed to take part in the War, my whole world changed. The color of everything—we were enmeshed in khaki. To eyes accustomed to riotous shades, this deadening of the whole tone of things was tremendously depressing… I wanted to keep step, and felt as if I were marching, marching, marching—until I would suddenly become conscious that I was only sitting still. I had never found the necessity of realizing the meaning of the old saying, “He also serves—“ For the first time I was forced to acknowledge that it was the age of the young.

• I am grateful to Craig Ede for alerting me to this wonderful memoir. 

Edward Simmons (date unknown)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

There is much more to know about Walt McDougall

Everglades Poster (©2018) Roy R. Behrens
American cartoonist Walt McDougall (1858-1938) was the subject of the previous post, in which we reprinted the full text of a newspaper story he wrote about his attempts to persuade the US military to adopt the use of camouflage during World War I.

As it turns out, there is much more to know about him, and part of the information is in his autobiography, titled This is the Life! (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926). In that book (full text available online), he talks about how he became interested in protective coloration in nature when he was appointed the Game Protector of Florida, under the Migratory Bird Act. During his tenure in that role, the population of white egrets (which had been nearing extinction before) grew substantially, and manatee (then commonly known as the “sea cow”) became “more plentiful than the real cow, which is rather rare in Florida.” He goes on to describe how he also became interested in wartime camouflage

Shortly after hostilities began in France, I encountered some badly wounded Canadian officers who had been sent South to recuperate, and often took them out boating. From them one day I learned about “camouflage” as practiced in the European armies, The prospect of this novel application of paint to warfare excited me immensely; I seemed to glimpse an opening whereby many aged artists could be of service to their country [p. 307].…

…In July I went to Washington…to preach camouflage to an incredulous and derisive lot of official dumb-bells who thought I was trying to introduce a new brand of French cheese. I was dubbed “Camouflage Walt” in the Press Club. I wrote a couple of page stories for the [Washington] Post that helped to make the word familiar, but alas, the reputation of humor is ruinous to any serious purpose; I got a few laughs but no consideration, although seven hundred French and English artists were even then engaged in developing the new defensive art. General Joe Kuhn, head of the War College, assured me it “was mere frills and piffle” [p. 308].

Aside from his camouflage efforts, there are other interesting aspects of McDougall’s life. In 1902, while he was a cartoonist for The North American in Philadelphia, a fellow cartoonist named Charles Nelan satirized the Governor of Pennsylvania (Samuel Pennypacker) by depicting him as a parrot. Rather like current political ploys, Pennypacker responded by calling for a legislative rule (called the “anti-cartoon act”) that would make it unlawful to portray politicians “as birds or animals.” In response, McDougall created new caricatures of the governer and other hacks—not as birds and animals, but as trees, vegetables, and a beer stein, as reproduced below.

Another, far more somber, aspect of McDougall’s biography took place decades later, when, destitute, forgotten, and living alone, he ended his life at age 80 by shooting himself in the head with an old pistol. This is how the story was told in HE MADE OTHERS LAUGH in the Owensboro Messenger (Owensboro KY), on March 12, 1938—

He had amused unnumbered thousands with his facile pen, helped elect one president with a masterful cartoon, been associated with another, and been employed by a third, yet when Walt McDougall came to die it was all alone and with a pistol clasped in his good right hand. At 80 the cartoonist, author and humorist found himself at the end of the road; money gone, friends forgetful. He had been dead a week, the coroner said.

…[US President Woodrow] Wilson commissioned McDougall to study camouflage in Europe and the report he made was the basis for much this country did in that direction during the early days of the war.•

With age and adversity upon him, the maker of laughs for other people turned to painting and his diary. If McDougall was quite frank with his pages they should have a worthwhile story to tell.

In other accounts of his passing, there are repeated references to his diary, but so far we haven't found it. It would be interesting to read, although assuredly painful. We have found only one published entry, described as having been one of his last. It reads—

Stove won’t work—tough times.


• This claim seems to contradict McDougall's own account of his limited success. 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The wizard of oz becomes schooled on camouflage

Walt McDougall (1904), Land of Oz comic page
There is no denying that American artist Walt McDougall (1858-1938) was an extraordinary cartoonist. His work is funny and beautifully drawn. Above is a single full-color newspaper page (1904) for L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz. And at the bottom of this blog post is another full-page comic (1897), amazingly structured, in which works by a number of cartoonists are featured—McDougall's work is inside the triangle on the left of the page. Both of these cartoons are in public domain, and can be accessed as image files on McDougall's Wikipedia page.

McDougall was also interested in camouflage, and he wrote a long newspaper account about that subject during World War I. I've republished the entire text below. But I haven't republished the illustrations he made for it. None of those drawings are of the quality of his cartoons, and one of them is blatantly offensive: it shows military brass having drinks at the Army and Navy Club (where I once lectured—on the subject of camouflage) in Washington DC. An African-American waiter is shown as a clueless black-faced minstrel, as was thought to be funny back then. It brings up painful memories of my own childhood when, as recently as the early 1950s, the movie theatre in the small Iowa community in which I grew up was still featuring "minstrel shows" in which white musicians (there were no black residents at the time) would perform in blackface. With that as a timely disclaimer, here is the text of McDougall's article—

Walt M’Dougall, TRAILING THE CAMOUFLAGE IN WASHINGTON JUNGLES: Certain Adventures of a Patriot Who Endeavored to Do His Bit for Our Newest Art: An “Inside Story” of the Incident That Gave Birth to Camouflage, Written and Illustrated by the Man Who Hereby Sets Forth His Claim to Rank as the Original “Camouflager,” in The Washington Post, June 10, 1917, p. 3—

Camouflage is pronounced as it is spelled, with the “g” soft and mushy, as in “garage,” and with the accent on the “cam.” The art and mystery of concealing batteries, roads and large, important officials by means of artificial scenery was given this name by the French, who knew that it would be a long time before people could determine whether it was a new kind of cheese or a bit of feminine wearing apparel.

Some time ago I became possessed of certain reliable information regarding camouflage through a returned Canadian officer and promptly addressed the War Department a fervent appeal to send me to the French front to gather further information, models, data, and insect parasites for the instruction of our own army. I realized that the task required the imagination of a playwright, the art of a scene painter, the skill of a stage carpenter, the strength of a blacksmith, the nerve of a literary agent, the stomach of a hyena, and the nerve of a motion picture substitute.

Nobody knows what became of that appeal.

New York Got the Edge
Two weeks ago I arrived in Florida in response to a suggestion from a high official to present my plea in person, and almost immediately discovered that while I had been dreaming under the orange blossoms a national camouflage division had been organized in New York, with units in various other cities, and that a number of able-bodied artists already were drilling at night in vacant lots. It was even said that they were wearing uniforms. Now, New York usually tumbles to a new thing only after all the rest of the country has tried it out, and then it starts it off as a new and original fad, but in this case, it seems to have got there first.

Somewhat startled and nervous, I devoted my initial efforts to ascertaining just how far the movement had progressed. Hastily seeking the aforesaid prominent official I was guided to the War Department, where we consulted a bland and amiable Major Blank, who, after candidly admitting that he had never heard of camouflage, said that from what I had revealed to him he didn’t think it quite fair to pester the department about such piffle when it was so busy with really important matters.

“Major, on my word of honor as a gentleman,” I repeated, “I assure you that while camouflage is a new war game, it isn’t piffle. It is saving thousands of lives and guns and military material in France.”

Patting me soothingly on the shoulder, he suggested: “Why not go over on your own account as a private citizen and study it?”

When I asked him, rather testily, I admit, how long he thought I’d last gumshoeing around the French front with a camera, a sketchbook, and a tape measure, picking centimeters and calories off the big guns, he appeared a trifle hurt, but when he got his breath he said that the War Department couldn’t bother with “frills” at this time and that perhaps I might manage to get away with the second or third division of troops going over.

I asked the next man who was consulted, point-blank, if he had ever heard of camouflage.

Thought It a New Insect Powder
“Yes,” said he in a flash; “It is the new insect powder they’re getting from the Phillippines.” However, he was only a civilian.

I began to see, dimly, that my task was going to difficult. We went to the Cosmos Club to dine, where I met an African explorer, who wanted to bet me that camouflage was a subspecies of the dingo family. Late at night, reduced to a sort of dumb despair, I went to the Press Club, where I encountered artist Felix Mahoney, [a cartoonist as well] who proved to have at his finger-ends all the knowledge there is about “Who’s Who and Where” in camouflaging. He formed the local unit and invited me to witness the evening drill the following night. I was surprised to learn that they were not drilling with paintbrushes, but actually learning the military manual under the instruction of a real army officer. This looked like something really tangible.

I also learned that evening that among other things it is supposed that “the camouflage artist is like any other soldier. He goes where he is sent, and, in addition to his arms, he carries a 6-inch sketch box, which is his palette, one-half of the box fitting on his thumb in true palette fashion, while the other half holds his little sketch boards and colors. The scene to be ‘camouflaged’ is sketched exactly as it appears in colors that match the true ones. This sketch is conveyed to the base of operations, where other artists copy it upon a large canvas. The framework, if there is any, is designed and the finished ‘scene’ is rushed to the spot it is intended to conceal.”

When I pointed out that if the scenery was already there in situ it scarcely needed to be disguised by an artificial creation precisely imitating its details to conceal it from the enemy, I was regarded with pity.

He Is the Original Camouflager
Now, I need to explain, perhaps, my interest in this matter. Long before the famous bank robbery where the burglars painted a fake safe and robbed the genuine one behind it, in my boyhood days, in fact, I cleverly painted a life-size effigy of my slight and skinny self and set it up in the cornfield where I was supposed to be watching the crows, and while mother thought I was on the job, I was lying under a willow by the creek fishing for perch. While I expose past duplicity with regret, my mother being long dead, I feel it needful to establish my claim as the original camouflager.

Well, I had already begun to suspect that I stood a swell chance of getting to the front, but I persisted. The next day I met a man in another department who confessed that he had heard that the French used artists in the army to “stimulate scenery” in deceiving the enemy. Needless to say, he meant “simulate.” I saw the young and enthusiastic artists drill that evening and conferred with them. They expected, every one of them, to be sent to the front, but they were rather misty as to how they were to be instructed, and where, in their special form of military art.  I took occasion to explain that I deserved to be sent over in order to qualify as an instructor for just such lads back here at home. None of these boys wanted to be generals or even captains—they wanted to camouflage.

After three days I got so that I found myself in the Army and Navy Club ordering camouflage cocktails for an aged major general and I realized that I had reached a critical stage. I proceeded to obtain a new slant on the subject. Armed with a note from Mr. Tumulty I sought the Assistant Secretary of War, but his private secretary, an alert and observing young fellow, seeing the wild, haunted look in my eyes, the hectic four-flush mantling my cheeks and my ill-concealed impatience, steered me up against some husky colonels in a remote part of the building. These officers, kindly and genial, humored me by listening to my ravings, and finally Mr. McKenna sent me by the department bus to the War College, having previously telephoned General Kuhn that I was coming.

They Treated Him Kindly
Right here I want to express my appreciation of the unfailing kindness, cheerful patience and delightful good humor of every official whose valuable time I monopolized during the week. Although they uniformly refused to take me seriously, they took me in and made me at home in every case. I lunched with the general staff on Friday, after walking many miles across country to the War College, a point usually reached only by airplane and wireless, and although I had neither guide, compass or chart, I got there before everything was eaten.

Here I received another shock. I found that General Kuhn actually knew all about camouflage! I mean, all that is known in the United States. That is nearly nothing, but the general had heard about what had been revealed. His delightful personality eased the pain I felt when I saw that he also regarded camouflage as frillery and military lingeries, as it were, but when he kindly enlightened me as to the number (something like 76,000) of eager, earnest souls who ardently desired to sail for France this week in order to study gas-bombing, trench ventilation, painless starvation, cathedral reconstruction, explosive frankfurters, dog training, the German system of converting their dead into toilet soaps, smokeless tobacco and the like on the battlefield, I saw a great light. I now perceive why departmental business proceeds slowly and painfully. If officials are as invariably polite, courteous, and obliging to every crank, bug, and jobseeker as they were to me it is wonderful that anything is accomplished, and it follows that camouflaging the departments is as necessary as anything else.

He Gave Up the Quest
The last man I interviewed on the subject was the celebrated sculptor, Mr. Paul Barlett, chairman of the executive committee of the Washington camouflage division. He assured me that a small army of artists, eminent and otherwise, was preparing to go to France, where they were to take up this pursuit.

“Do you mean that the government will send this division over as an actual organization of artists?” I asked.

He intimated that such was his understanding.

“And when this army, well-drilled and qualified as soldiers, arrives at the front, will it be marched somewhere and proceed to become students of camouflage, under the instruction of 700 busy scene painters now occupied in disguising France, or will they just camouflage around, picking up the art between the barrage fire and the hospitals?” I persisted.

Mr. Bartlett’s manner suggested that my question peeved him, or, at least, so it seemed to me, and I obtained no answer to the question of how our earnest seekers after knowledge would become qualified to proceed to camouflage. However, this finished my efforts to inject my own personality into the movement. I will not see France until the war is over, and I will never know more about camouflaging than anybody else does.

Walt McDougall and others (1897)

Monday, June 22, 2020

Earl B. Wooden | Hollywood designer and camoufleur

Earl B. Wooden (1893-1952) was a Kansas-born scenic film designer, who (as a "set decorator" and "set dresser") produced scenery for Hollywood films. One of those was Corpus Christi Bandits (1945), the poster for which is shown above. During World War I, he also served as a US Army camouflage artist, as described in the news article below.


Stockton Review and Rooks County Record (Stockton KS), January 31, 1918—

Mr. and Mrs. E.B. Wooden received a letter this week from their son Earl, notifying them that he had arrived safely in France, where he went from California recently to work in the Camouflage Corps. His particular work will be the planning and architectural construction of camouflage for artillery and other things at the front that must be concealed from enemy airplanes. In this, he is an adept, as he has been engaged for the past four years in the creation of artificial scenery for a big film company at University City in Los Angeles. He says his work has hitherto ben to deceive the public at the movies; now it will be the pull the wool over the Bosche's eyes. His parents knew of his going and were surprised as well as pleased over getting word from him so promptly.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Dustin Keller | Camouflaged household appliances

Dustin Keller / Lozenge camouflage toaster
Ala serendipity, we've run across an online site called Keller's Blog on which a Canadian high school teacher (of art and guitar) named Dustin Keller has posted a camouflaged-themed problem for his students at the John Oliver Secondary School in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Dustin Keller / Three-tone camouflage toaster

A variety of problems are posted there, but the one that we were drawn to (of course) is Skins & Camouflage. As specified on that page, the students were asked to design a prototype of a quasi-camouflaged "small household applicance," such as (for example) a toaster.

Dustin Keller / Dazzle camouflage toaster

The three examples posted here were designed by Mr. Keller. It's a great idea—elegant, fun, and nifty for sure. Surely, his students enjoyed it.

Monday, June 15, 2020

hidden moonshine | teddy bear stomachs suspected

Camouflaged intoxicants
CAMOUFLAGE LIQUOR TO SOLDIERS AROUSES JUDGE in Boston Globe (April 14, 1918), p. 16—

NEW YORK—Discovery of camouflage in the disposal of liquor to soldiers and sailors in uniform led to the announcement by United States Judge Hand today that imprisonment and not fines would be the punishment hereafter of persons convicted of violating the Federal law forbidding the sale of intoxicants to Army and Navy men.

Stomachs of Teddy Bears, paper bags left on mailboxes, taxicab rides around the block at $1.50 a ride, and cigar boxes passed over the counter at cigar stores are some of the methods through which servicemen here have been served with liquor recently, according to testimony in the Federal court at the arraignment of more than 300 persons, many of whom are now in prison.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

hocus pocus, thimblerig, supercherie, and cozenage

Above Poster for Charlie Chaplin film, Shoulder Arms (1918), in which his character wanders behind enemy lines disguised as a tree trunk. Public Domain.


CAMOUFLAGE: Everybody’s Doing It, Including the Moving Pictures, in Photo-Play Journal (December 1917), p. 25—

No periodical can count its contents complete if it has left out some mention of camouflage. The word has dug its way into our language until it has completely lost its French ancestry. Deception, misrepresentation, cozenage, coggery, ingannation, hocus pocus, thimblerig and artifice, bamboozlement, supercherie, and strategem, they all mean the same nowadays since camouflage has come into its own.

When the French paint their heavy guns to look like landscapes, that’s camouflage; when the U-boats put on paint that looks like the waves of the sea, that’s camouflage; when you make ox-tail soup out of a bouillon cube, that’s camouflage; when you’re forty and fat and you bant in your flat, that’s camouflage; when you stand pat on two pair and look like a full house, that’s camouflage.

And now the movies have taken it up. They don’t know it yet, but they have. And when the moving pictures begin to take a thing up you have no more chance of getting away from it than you have of not hearing scandal at the Country Club. So why struggle?

If you can recall the day you hid behind the old barn and indulged in your first whiff at a cigarette, you will realize that camouflage meant something to you many years before you ever heard of the blooming word. The old barn was first-class camouflage. If you’re a former little girl, remember the fan you blushed behind when he first said he loved you? ’Twas camouflage that made your face look like a fan. Verily, everybody has been doing it—this thing of camouflaging.…


Boston Globe, March 31, 1918—

Cecil B. DeMille, of Paramount [Film Studios], will become a member of the United States Engineer Corps and will aid in recruiting technical experts and scenic artists for camouflage work in France.

According to a Wikipedia biography—

During World War I, the Famous Players-Lasky organized a military company underneath the National Guard called the Home Guard made up of film studio employees with DeMille as captain. Eventually, the Guard was promoted to a battalion and recruited soldiers from other film studios. They took time off weekly from film production to practice military drills. Additionally, during the war, DeMille volunteered for the Justice Department's Intelligence Office, investigating friends, neighbors, and others he came in contact with in connection with the Famous Players-Lasky. He volunteered for the Intelligence Office during World War II as well. Although DeMille considered enlisting in World War I, he stayed in the United States and made films.  

Cecil B. DeMille (1919). Public domain.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Art | an illusion of reality that tells the truth by fibbing

Leon Dabo (1909)
Above Portrait photograph of Leon Dabo by Emil O. Hoppé (1909). Public domain.


Rollin Lynde Hartt, CAMOUFLAGE in Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1918—

As their train nears Chicago, passengers note a low, murmurous hum. It is the Chicagoans saying “Camouflage.” Those of us who once confined our remarks to “Skiddoo! Twenty-three!” and more recently to “I should worry!” and “What do you know about that?” peg along at present on “Camouflage,” though a bit wearisome it grows. Declares a neighbor of mine, “The next time I hear ‘Camouflage’ I shall make my will, kiss my friends and relatives good-bye, and jump in the wastebasket!”…

[Camouflage] borrows its technique from a humble enough source. It is the Chamber of Horrors over again…Some steal their technique from the impressionists. Some repeat the antics of cubism. Others depend for their success upon certain very curious principles of optics. It takes an artist to invent them and an artist to explain them, and Mr. Leon Dabo* is never more entertaining than when holding forth on their theory and practice.

In order to understand the enormously important part impressionism plays in camouflage one must first define impressionism. Aesthetically, it is a simple matter, merely an attempt to reproduce, not nature itself, but the side of nature that appeals strongly to the artist. Technically, however, it involves profundities. Instead of counterfeiting reality, it creates an illusion of reality. It tells the truth by fibbing…

It was to cubism that the camouflageurs had recourse when they wanted to hide ships from view. Painting them gray was a poor device, they found. From habit, the eye would still recognize the silhouette of a ship even at a great distance. But it turns out that the eye had come to depend almost wholly on habit. Break up the familiar silhouette by dappling it with inharmonious colors in huge, shapeless masses, or—better yet—by covering it with immense cubist triangles and with cubist rectangles as immense—and the eye of the seasoned mariner would report no ship at all. The eye sees what it is accustomed to seeing and balks at learning new tricks.…

And why resent that low, murmurous hum of the Chicagoans saying “Camouflage”? Let the hum continue. It is just now a foolish hum, to be sure; it reflects a quaintly naive sense of novelty, as if camouflage were a new thing under the sun instead of being a modern recourse to trickery as old as “Quaker” cannon and the painted portholes on merchantmen, and, for that matter, the celebrated wooden horse at Troy. But it popularizes an idea. It gives it prominence. It backs up the army’s determination to put camouflage where it belongs. France has thousands of camouflageurs. So should we.…


* Note The following entry was featured in a column titled Fifty Years Ago 1918, in the August 25, 1968 issue of the Asbury Park Press (Asbury NJ)—

Aug. 27Leon Dabo, American painter who has been serving on General Pershing’s staff designing camouflage, was the principal speaker at a war rally in Ocean Grove Auditorium. He described enemy atrocities.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

As human folly brings about yet another catastrophe

Above Cover of Ballast Quarterly Review. Vol 8 No 1 (Autumn 1992), featuring a wood engraving by British printmaker Robert Gibbings, titled Fowey Habor (c1919).  All issues of Ballast (a periodical commonplace book that ran for twenty-one years) are now available online as pdf downloads.


Robert Gibbings, Sweet Thames Run Softly. NYC: E.P. Dutton, 1945—

The war [WWII] broke out, but I was overage. Besides, I had met a bullet in the last war. I tried for camouflage. I offered to make drawings from submarines, having already worked underwater in a diving helmet…if it was human folly which had brought about the catastrophe, it was, for the most part, only human beings who were paying the price. The world of nature was unaffected; flowers still bloomed, birds still sang, even butterflies continued their migrations, and rivers flowed towards the sea.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Paul Bartlett and the American Camouflage Division

Above Paul Wayland Bartlett in 1918 in Washington DC. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs. Digital coloring.


In a blog post on Frank Overton Colbert in 2018, we mentioned his connection with a widely known Beaux-Arts American painter and sculptor named Paul Wayland Bartlett. In April 1917, Bartlett co-founded a group of Washington DC artists called the American Camouflage Division.

Bartlett was the group’s chairman, while among the other members were Felix Mahony, Michel Jacobs, Glen Brown, Richard Brooks, A.G. Smith, Alexis B. Many, and J. Crozier. When the US entered World War I, this group offered to contribute their expertise in the development of camouflage. At the same time, comparable groups had also been formed in New York City (called the New York Camouflage Society or American Camouflage) and San Francisco (American Camouflage Western Division).

In an issue of The Sunday Star (Washington DC) on April 29, 1917 (Section Four, page 1), a half-page article titled WASHINGTON ARTISTS ORGANIZE A CAMOUFLAGE DIVISION reported that Bartlett had recently—

made an address before an assemblage of fellow artists, architects, sculptors, and painters to explain the possibilities of camouflage. His explanations were inspiring; so much so, in fact, that the establishment of an American association of camouflage was begun then and there.

Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925) had been born in New Haven CT. He began with the advantage of professional connections, because his father was a prominent sculptor, Truman H. Bartlett (1835-1922), who taught modeling for 22 years in the MIT architecture department. Both the father and the son were heavily influenced by Neo-classicism and the French Academy, and, as early as age 15, Paul Bartlett began to study sculpture in Paris.

Throughout the remainder of his life, he remained active in American art circles, but lived primarily in France. In 1914, artists serving in the French Army were the first to propose the establishment of a section de camouflage, so Bartlett’s endorsement of the "art of camouflage" was most likely encouraged in part by that.

Bartlett was known for his commissioned public sculptures, the most notable of which may be The Apothesis of Democracy, the House of Representatives pediment at the US Capitol building (as shown below). He died of blood poisoning in Paris in 1925.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Veteran camoufleur sought for bootlegging expertise

Above Prohibition agents with a confiscated moonshine still. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs.


CAMOUFLAGE USED TO COVER STILLS in Centralia Sentinel (Centralia IL), November 2, 1923, p. 2—

Montana prohibition officers are searching for a war veteran who saw service overseas in a camouflage outfit. According to [Montana law enforcement], bootleggers are believed to be employing the returned veteran to conceal their moonshine stills on Montana farms.

Costello said a still was recently discovered in a tent near Boseman MT after many weeks' search. The moonshine-making outfit had been hidden in a tent, painted green, and pitched in a clump of willows. Several times the dry officers came within a few feet of the hidden still but were unable to locate it because of the successful camouflage. A large number of barrels, hidden in the willows nearby, were painted green.

Three hundred gallons of whiskey, 1,244 pounds of sugar, 1,000 pounds of corn, and 15 barrels of mash, ready for distilling were found in the cache.

Evidence of the work of the veteran has been uncovered in other parts of the state, it was said. In a northern Montana grain field, a still was discovered hidden under a tent which was covered with bunches of grain, tied together, and ready for harvesting. For some days dry agents thought the disguised tent was a mound of grain.

Near Havre MT, a still was found on a mountain. The still was made of canvas and was located on the edge of a cliff. Painted to resemble rocks, it was many weeks before the moonshiners’ outfit was discovered.

At Great Falls a still was recently found on the banks of the Missouri River. Here the still was located in a cave. Painted canvas trees were used to disguise a door, which formed the entrance to the cave.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Olivette's mysteries | To be clasped to Flanders mud

The Mysterious Olivette (1918)
Above A photograph (with digital coloring) of The Mysterious Olivette, shown “dancing the Diablo Tarantella in the third act of The Lilac Domino at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool UK. Published in The Bystander on March 20, 1918, p. 609, the headline caption simply read Of Course it’s Camouflage!

And below is an excerpt from a column in the same issue, p. 594—

And what [for soldiers on leave if] there were no camouflage dances? For a camouflage dance, you know, is just exactly like other dances, only, for camouflage, there’s a gramophone instead of a band, and sandwiches instead of quail, and you wear, if possible, a “simple” frock, for you never quite know if someone almost straight from the trenches won’t arrive, and to be clasped close to Flanders mud in white tulle or rose-pink ninon is—well, in any case, rather nice, really.


And alas, one of our favorite old-timey comedy lines (an exchange between dancers)—

“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m a little stiff from badminton.”

“I don’t care where you’re from. You’ll never dance with me again!”

The Bystander | Disguised to look like nothing at all

Above Rawley [or Hawley] Morgan, "Our Involuntary Disguises" cartoon in The Bystander, March 20, 1918, p. 613.


Anon, Hello Buddy: Sad and Sunny Side of War (1920)—

Of late the scene painter's art—technically known as camouflage—has raised the concealment of batteries and their observation posts to the realm of the uncanny…you can now disguise anybody as anything. For instance, you can make up a battery of six-inch guns to look [like] a flock of sheep, and herd them into action browsing. Or you can dispatch a scouting party across No Man's Land dressed up as pillboxes, so that the deluded Hun, instead of opening fire with a machine gun, will merely post letters in them—valuable letters, containing military secrets. Lastly, and more important still, you can disguise yourself to look like nothing at all, and in these days of intensified artillery fire it is very seldom that nothing at all is hit.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thelma Cudlipp's satirical view of camouflage corps

American Women's Camouflage Corps (1918)
Above One of various US government photographs from World War I of the American Women’s Camouflage Corps. A few years ago, we curated and designed a public exhibition of this and other photographs from the same unit. All items from that exhibit can now be accessed online.

Below are the sketches and humorous captions by Thelma Cudlipp for a satirical treatment of the same subject from a 1918 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. The artist/author was the American illustrator Thelma Somerville Cudlipp (1891-1983), who, through marriages and family links, is also sometimes known as Thelma Somerville Grosvenor Cudlipp Whitman. Having led an undoubtedly interesting life, she merits looking into.


Thelma Cudlipp (sketches and text), "Camouflage! Oh, Where Have We Heard That Word Before?", from Vanity Fair, September 1918, p. 35—

ISN'T IT WONDERFUL how the very most fashionable women in America are helping to dethrone that whole darn Hohenzollern family? And isn’t it wonderful, too, to note the variety of activities in which their energies are beginning to count for the Allies? Take, for instance, the Women’s Camouflage Corps, of New York, which is doing such wonderful work up in the Bronx! Why, it really isn' t possible—because of the work of the corps there—to walk in the northern confines of our city without acknowledging the truth of the saying that "Things are not what they seem." It was obvious, from the beginning of the war, that the ladies would flock to the art of camouflage, as if drawn to it by some natural inherited instinct. For, is a woman—we ask you—ever as happy as when she is persuading us that when she offers us one thing, it is, in reality, another? And so, when the vogue of camouflage came along and gave the girls an opportunity to resort to their favorite occupation of dissembling, why, that's all there was to it. The incidents mirrored on this page are the results of recent and actual experiences on the part of Vanity Fair.

Here is a rather saddening incident. Private Phylisse Stuyvesant has, for a week or more, been annoying her sister members of the Camouflage Corps in a great variety of ways. All of the girls have been doing their best to “sit on her”—but so far, without success. Here, however. we see the snub actually accomplished—not by the girls, to be sure, but by a vagrant cook, who, with a strolling laundress, is out for a little alfresco picnic.

Horrid predicament of Lieutenant Corinne de Puyster, who is acting as guide and cicerone for a French General of note, who has graciously consented to visit the Ladies Camouflage Camp. Lieutenant de Puyster, determining, inwardly, to give Sergeant Esme Vanderbilt at least ten days in the guard-house for having camouflaged her Sherry's lunch basket so as to make it appear to be but an innocent and inoffensive bit of the parade ground.

And here is a really tragical incident, as a result of which Vanity Fair almost went without its accustomed liquid refreshment on its recent visit to the ladies' camp. The girls had camouflaged a case of Bevo [near beer] to look like a cross-section of a rocky pasture, with the distressing result that it took three privates in the ladies' corps upwards of twenty minutes to find the precious fluid. The discovery of it was only accomplished by implicit obedience of the terse orders: “Ladies! Forward on all fours.”

So many people are saying that Vanity Fair is an improper magazine—what with its troupes of barefoot dancers and its portraits of the girls in the Follies—that we hesitated a good deal before printing this rather questionable illustration, displaying, as it does, two gentlemen about to take a swim in the river Bronx, all unaware of the fact that Captain Gladys Astor is lurking, not more than five paces away, cleverly disguised as a stunted nut tree.

And this is what led to the very biggest scandal of all, a tragedy so tremendous that it led to the withdrawal of Major Muriel Van Rensselaer from the Camouflage Corps. The Major, disguised as a sassafras bush, was, all unwillingly, forced to overhear a lengthy, candid and snappy account of herself and all her activities—just exactly what all the girls really thought of her—from two horrid privates in her own company.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Frank Lloyd Wright | Taliesin West and Camouflage

Mason City poster © Roy R. Behrens
In the following text, the newspaper article referenced is “Architect Wright’s Arizona Home, Last Word in Camouflage, Blends into Landscape of Desert” in The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento CA), May 14, 1940.

In 1911. the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright established a studio near Spring Green, Wisconsin, on a property that had long been owned by his maternal Welsh ancestors, the Lloyd Jones family. He referred to that location as Taliesin, which is Welsh for “shining brow.”

Beginning in 1935, Wright no longer remained in Wisconsin year-round. Instead, he and his students traveled annually to the Southwest, to spend each winter in more compatible weather in a desert setting, twenty-six miles from Phoenix, Arizona. The complex he established there became known as Taliesin West.

In May of 1940, a newspaper article described Wright’s Taliesin West (still unfinished at the time) as the “last word in camouflage.” World War Two was underway (although the US was officially neutral), and the article recommended that “the artists of wartime camouflage could learn a lot from the sprawling, unusual structure” that Wright was then developing in Paradise Valley, near Scottsdale AZ.

Although Wright himself might not refer to his architecture as camouflage, the article goes on to say, it is nothing short of that, since “the building blends so completely with the desert landscape that it is scarcely visible a half-mile away.” Indeed, “were it not for the white canvas roof it would almost be lost in the rugged mountain topography at a distance.”

Proposed book cover (2016) not used

Cedar Rock talk about Wright and Modern-era furniture (2018)

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

To see or not? The compleat disguise of the nightjar

Above Scissor-tailed Nightjar (referred to in the article as the "goatsucker"). Public domain.


Below is most (not all) of the text from a magazine article that was published during World War I. An opening section, which is a disturbing and not-funny joke about the “West Indian negro” (but referred to by a slanderous name), has been omitted. Encountering such offensive content is standard fare when searching vintage published texts.

The author, Stephen Haweis (1878-1969), was a British artist and photographer whose family (described as “socially prominent”) lived in Cheyne Walk in London, in a house that had been previously owned by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. While living in Paris, he was a student of Alphonse Mucha, and, as a photographer, documented the sculptural work of Auguste Rodin. He was also the sometime husband of British poet Mina Loy. After losing much of his family’s wealth in the 1929 stock market crash, he moved to the West Indies, where (according to a biographical note in the finding aid for his papers at Columbia University) “he studied and painted tropical fish [and] wrote for local newspapers…”

Stephen Haweis, "To See or Not To See? A Question that Camouflage, Color and Cubism Are Solving in the War" in Vanity Fair, April 1918, pp. 42ff—

… It was recently announced in the newspapers that ingenious camouflage men were required by the Chief of Engineers at Washington. Property men, photographers, sheet metal workers, scene and sign painters, were specified among a host of others, but there was no notice or mention of color experts, or men whose lives are devoted to the observation of Nature.

A really ingenious camouflage man ought to be able to do quite well without the simple wiles of the stage decorator, but it seems odd that the color men should be overlooked by such an important branch of the Army service as the camouflage department. Perhaps, at this moment, the most useless professions would seem to be those of the picture painter and the naturalist, but in these two branches of study are the real master camouflagers. The painter, because he devotes his life to the science of color, and the collecting naturalist because he could not possibly find the objects of his search were he not trained to notice the slightest variations of color and form, in forest and plain.

The naturalist can see the screech owl on the stump of an old tree, and can find the praying mantis upon a bush, which the rest of humanity will pass unnoticed; indeed a tyro may stare vacantly at a land-crab in a mangrove swamp for several minutes after its exact position has been indicated to him. I have seen a man kneel down upon the sand with his nose less than three feet from the young of the goatsucker, yet he could not see it, because to him sand and fluff were exactly alike.

We are not trained to accurate observation unless our life interest depends upon it. But who should be able to detect a hidden gun emplacement, or a sniper, so well as a painter or a naturalist? They know when a boulder has been recently moved by the direction of the lichen growths on it. They suspect an unusual shape of a branch in a mass of foliage. They are not easily deceived by cut trees that are supposed to be growing.

Biography of Mina Loy

The army authorities should take into consideration that there are several breeds of artists. The popular portrait painter might be dead weight in the camouflage department, and the old fashioned landscape man might be well supplanted by the scene-painter; but the impressionist, perhaps even the post-impressionist or the cubist, should be of the utmost value to them because they look at nature scientifically and analytically. They have no preconceived ideas of what a picture should be, they are concerned with what nature really is, however unlikely it may seem to the eye. They do not attempt to paint details, but effects of light upon scenes or objects which in themselves have no particular interest for them.

They are aware that the color of the thing at any given moment is incompletely interpreted by that color detached from its encircling environment of light, air, and movement. To attain this, the impressionist analyzes what he sees and devises a means of expressing the result of his analysis.

He does it as a rule by juxtaposing brilliant colors in spots and blotches so that the result expresses the colors, and suggests the details of his subjects properly in their relative values,—the keynote of successful camouflage.

Most people think that an object painted blue would be inconspicuous against a blue sky. Blue sky, however, is not blue paint, a paint which appears to darken with distance more rapidly than any other color,—so that a blue airplane would show up almost like a black spot in the sky.

Orange, on the other hand, (the complementary of blue), will disappear remarkably quickly, a pale vivid yellow would probably be found to be the best airplane color for a blue sky. Pink will disappear rapidly against white skies, while anyone who has seen a spot of vermilion on gray drawing paper, should realize that a vermilion airplane against a thunder cloud if visible at all, would be an impossible target, as the two colors produce a vibration in the eye that is almost intolerable. I do not doubt that artists could devise a far better color for uniforms than the favorite grays and browns dear to the military heart today.

Applied to battleships, the result of the prevalent gray color scheme is well nigh pathetic, for, upon the horizon, they appear perfectly well defined to the enemy marksman. He would have considerably more trouble if the color were a bright mauve. If there were enough red in the mauve, these ships, theoretically, should not be visible on the greens and grays of the ocean.

Already there are some who regret the old white battleships, which at least reflected the water. But white is now said to be a bad color. But there are different kinds of white; blue-white, green-white, yellow-white—each of which has its own characteristics and uses. Probably all white holds or refracts too much light to be very inconspicuous, except in a blaze of light.

The chief essential in camouflage is that the same color should not be employed all over anything. Spots have been used by the painters to simulate movement in picture painting. They will be found—on a large scale—to be right in principle for harmonizing an object with the continual movement of its surroundings.

But, whatever colors are employed the impressionist has long known that stars and stripes are the right principle—and I think we shall see that they will be placed, in Europe, where they will do a lot of good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New England camouflage | An art of Yankee origin

New England Historical Society online article
Above Click here for quite a good article on World War I camouflage in New England.

Giraffic Park | Periscope bathing when sub submerged

Ralph Hershberger (1942)
Ralph Hershberger, Funny Business cartoon In The Sacramento Bee, October 19, 1942. The caption reads: “My new camouflage periscope, sir—when we submerge the enemy will think it’s a giraffe taking a bath!”


SEES 14 TRANSPORTS LEAVE NEW YORK in Mexico Weekly Ledger (Mexico MO), September 5, 1918, p. 3—

The transports are all camouflaged, painted like water and waves and rocks until they look all chopped up and one can’t guess at their enormous size from a distance. They are painted in grays, blues, and blacks and mottled as only the artist hand of the expert camouflager can do.

As Miss Jurgensen’s party neared the transports, they seemed to be empty and without life. Very soon, however, there appeared thousands and thousands of khaki-colored spots, which soon covered the decks in a mass of brown. In an instant these khaki-colored objects became live beings, shouting and waving white and red handkerchiefs. The sightseers cheered until they were hoarse and the soldier boys did not stop for breath. They were “going over,” and were glad of it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Old Man Camoufle who cleverly rearranged the spots

Gary Kelley © 1994
Above The Regionalist, poster illustration for an Iowa arts festival, by Gary Kelley (1994).


Ray K. Moulton, “Camouflage—Its Uses and Abuses,” In the San Francisco Examiner, October 28, 1917—

It is claimed by the French that camouflage was invented a short time ago by Old Man Camoufle, himself a noted savant and patron of the arts.

According to the story, M. Camoule was seated in his garden one afternoon when he noted a spotted cow grazing in an adjacent meadow. He obtained a pot of paint and a brush and by cleverly rearranging the spots, he made the cow look like a goat, or, in other words, like an American ultimate consumer. He tried again and made the cow look like a corn crib, then like a zebra, then like a Ford.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Barber pole periscopes and erratic cubist patriots

Dazzle-painted US ship (c1918). Digital coloring.
BARBER POLE PERISCOPES: Submarine Invisibility Plan Tested at Navy Yard, in New York Tribune, July 17, 1915, p. 2—

A new method of making a submarine periscope invisible is being experimented with in the Brooklyn navy yard by Lieutenant Joseph O. Fisher, of K-6, commanding officer of the 4th Division submarine flotilla of the Atlantic fleet. Lieutenant Fisher’s plan is to paint every color of the spectrum on the periscope in parallel stripes.

Based on the theory that a white ray of light, when refracted, is broken into primary colors, it is presumed that the inverse will be true, and thus when the primary colors are refracted the result will be a white ray, which would be invisible.


in Railway and Marine News (1917), p. 29—

In 1902 a patent was granted two Americans, Gerome Brush and Abbott H. Thayer, who started out with the idea of reserving the coloring of the light and shaded portion of a vessel to decrease her visibility. Naval officers who have given much thought to this idea are Lieutenant Commander Joseph O. Fisher and Lieutenant Kenneth Whiting. Both of them started their studies in connection with the operation of submarines, but more recently, Lieutenant Whiting has continued his experiments in the field of aviation. Commander Fisher probably is responsible for the variegated color schemes which have led inhabitants of coastal cities to believe that a large proportion of recent navy recruits was composed of patriotic but irresponsible cubists.

Thayer painting with a broom | Let there be a rock!

Abbott H. Thayer, Stevenson Memorial (1903)
Rockwell Kent, It’s Me O Lord: The Autobiography of Rockwell Kent. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1955, p. 110, recalling an incident that took place at the studio of his mentor, Abbott Handerson Thayer (“the father of camouflage”), c1903. At the time, Thayer was putting the finishing touches on one of his best-known paintings (as shown above), Stevenson Memorial (commemorating Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson), now in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum—

One day, during the progress of his work on the memorial painting to Robert Louis Stevenson, Thayer called me into his studio. “Look at that rock,” he said, indicating the huge rock on which the winged figure sat. “What’s wrong with it?”

With not too much conviction I offered my criticism. “Good!” said Thayer. “Now I’ll go out. You take my brushes and paint the rock the way you think it ought to be. And call me when you’ve finished.” For once a critic had been served exactly right.

So I went to work. And when I had done the best I could, I called Thayer back. Thayer was generous. “Yes,” he said, “I think you’ve helped it.” Suddenly he cried, “Look! We’re both wrong—building it up little by little like that! God said: ‘Let there be a rock!’—and there it was.” And picking up a broom he swept it right and left across the painting. It did the trick. “That’s it,” said Thayer, “that’s it!” And so it stayed.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A monstrous feeling of slipping off the world's edge

C.R.W. Nevinson (c1919)
Above Christopher R.W. Nevinson, Banking at Four Thousand Feet, as reproduced in Christian Brinton, War paintings & drawings by British artists, exhibited under the auspices of the Ministry of information, London, 1919.


Eric Adeney, "My First Flight: A Futurist Picture" in To-day magazine (July 1918), pp. 177-182—

I want to paint a Futurist Picture.

A wild whirl of blues and grays and mauve, out of which leap at you something expressive of soaring massive strength and—a focal point for the pale blues. the greys and the mauve—a lighthouse, squat, ridiculous, as seen from above, though at the same time lying full length, on its side, at right angles to the earth, to the horizon that is madly standing on end.

Or, would it be “Vorticist”?

That word sounds the more appropriate.

Certainly, the delicate, detailed, “photographic” method is utterly inadequate. Anyone, granted a certain power over technical details, can paint you a train rushing through a landscape. The effect is cunningly contrived by little dabs of blue smoke and flying dust sweeping backward from the wheels! But, set the painter in an express train, and then let him honestly try to portray the view from the carriage-window. What will he put down in the foreground?

Who does not know the maddening moment when you try to read the name of the station as you are hurled through it. You fix your eyes, hold yourself very tense and steady, secretly a little proud of your unexpected power of self-concentration; and then a smudge, of whitish-green and brown: and you philosophically recover from your intense irritation by saying, “Oh well, try the next station!”

Now, the great majority of us sane everyday creatures have been brought up from infancy to regard this dizzy flight of the foreground as perfectly natural. We never dream of anyone finding any difficulty in accepting this preposterous behavior. I remember a child in the lift of the Hampstead Underground saying in startled awe, “Coo, look, the side’s going down.” An impatient feathered female said, “N-a-o-w, we’re going up, silly. The child’s round eyes showed that he knew it was an incomprehensible lie, to be accepted with a sigh. So, from our youth up, we accept as eminently natural the utter impossibility of whirling trees and posts and railway stations. Yet, were I to draw this Incredible everyday occurrence, everybody would laugh, and say, “Don’t be silly!” Hitherto, I too have laughed: tolerantly, of course, with a sort of benevolent broad-mindedness that loftily allowed that some of your Futurists were honestly trying to convey Something, though, of course, they were quite mad!

And then, one soft mauve afternoon, I was given a flight in an airplane. I expected a new and interesting sensation, but as to the exact nature of the thrill I was to experience I had had no hint. No one seems to have taken note of it, as far as I know. Yet all the thousands of aviators must have experienced it, the chaotic whirl, that happens suddenly. That is one secret of its thrill—the suddenness of it. This is what happened :

My military duties at present make of me one of the guardians of the coast of England; and the path to my patrol leads around a great aerodrome that has settled, with a tremendous air of permanency, on a certain wild and desolate spot, or rather, has sprung up its might like the warriors from the Teeth of the Dragon. One day, a small, very keen-eyed, brisk little man, with the MC ribbon, asked me if I would like a “joy-ride.”

Wonderful creature, Man—“joy-riding” in the clouds!

So we donned. leather coats and romantic-looking fur-lined leather helmets, goggles and gauntlets: and strolled across to a machine. Any old one lying about, apparently! This one had only lately been in; wasn’t allotted to anyone in particular yet. They called It the Camouflage Bus, the body being painted in sprawling browns and grays. I climbed on to .the lower plane, and stepped into a little cubby-hole, with a comfortably enough shaped seat, and a place to put one’s feet in front, amid various weird wires disappearing into the framework. A broad belt tied me in. And so I was—in—irrevocably so.

A mechanic commenced to turn the propeller in front. Behind me I heard the pilot making awesome remarks, such as:

"Oh, the Bowden has gone West." (The Bowden! Bowden-brake? No brake?!)

"The throttle won't work, I see." (?!!)

"She wants oil." (Nobody fetched her any!)

“This stay is broken." (Oh dear !!!!)

Then—“Contact”; and “Contact," replies the mechanic which mystic word seems to signify that “she” is ready to move. The engine purred, roared, screamed: little things looking like spark plugs, sitting on top of the bonnet on either side, just in front of me, quivered and spat blue. Mechanics withdrew the blocks of wood from in front of the wheels.

Then—we were off.

Two or three comfortable bumps on the rubber tires, and then smoothness: and the earth, the grass, the banks, the river, the houses, trees, everything, subsided, and in less time than it takes to write this, I seemed an incredible height up from the ground. I did not have that giddy sensation from which I usually suffer when looking down from high tower or windows. One is sitting on such strong virile solidity—swaying every now and then certainly—that there is a feeling of perfect security; not of being poised on nothing over space, but of sitting firmly on a good strong cloud that won't let one drop. I felt serenely comfortable, like being in the bow of a ship that was magnificently leaping up smooth slopes of invisible waves, without any of the buffeting and shiver-my-timbering that goes on in the sea. It was like an ideal switchback, without the extra little bumps or overhanging rocks in which scenic railways indulge with the intention of being entertaining. Those are the things in switchbacks that make one uncomfortable. A straightforward graceful up-and-down I am sure anybody could enjoy!

Then—we turned a comer, as it were: technically speaking, I believe, we "banked."

I confess at first I shut my eyes; then I kept one-half open; and so had awesome glimpses of the earth and the sea toppling over, standing on end. The horizon was vertical! As we swayed, the earth and sea and sky swooped away; at first, everything rushed upwards, like the Pack of Cards in Alice in Wonderland; and then it all poured madly downwards, like the last wild rush of soap suds when the bath is nearly empty. There was a jagged, glittering splash of sunlight in the mauve afternoon sky that was performing the queerest acrobatic tricks, balancing on its tail one moment, peeping at me from underneath the opposite side the next, and in less than no time careering about like an aurora borealis! I saw the lighthouse, squat and ridiculous, directly beneath me; then, the next second, it lay on its side, and, if we had not righted ourselves in another second it would cheerfully have stood on its head. When we thus keeled over sideways there was a monstrous feeling of slipping off the edge of the world, uncanny and gloriously terrifying.

And in the midst of it all I had a clear, definite knowledge that I could never satisfactorily draw the business in the ordinary "photographic" manner. Post-Impressionism, or Futurism, or Vorticism—or whatever “ism” it may be—is undoubtedly the only way to record this mad behavior of the earth and sea and sky and of this strong beast—bird I should say—though that little word sounds too tiny to apply to this rampant creature. Ever as we soared the wonderful thing on whose back I was riding lifted its great blue nozzle defiantly at space, and I could see it climbing, leaping, bounding, up and up, from one invisible plane to another. Being in the front seat, and so not able to see the pilot at work, I had the feeling that this great winged creature was going wherever it wanted, of its own volition. And I repeat, the only way to set it down as a drawing is by one of these mad-seeming efforts at portraying chaotic and simultaneous movement.

This experience has flung me suddenly into new ideas—new to me, that is.

Certain things stood out vividly, all the time—the great heaving nozzle, swaying and plunging, insistent in its strength and blueness; the yellowish semicircular talc screen just in front of me; the brightness of the ribbed planes; the clean brownness of certain bits of woodwork; and, away below, the lighthouse, squat one moment, sideways the next, a clear-cut feature around which swirled the beach, the dull sea, the dull sky, the excitable slit of sunlight, the merging odd pieces of grass, a river, and certain huts and pathways, a kaleidoscope of dull gray-blueness.

But chiefly I was aware of the nozzle and the lighthouse. Ever since that first flight—I have now had two or three more, and no longer need to shut my eyes, nor even to hold on—I have had this matter buzzing in my mind. On odd bits of paper I have tried to draw it. Of course, I could fairly easily paint a mild photographic little watercolor showing the lighthouse, the fore-shortened perspective cleverly "caught," the aerodrome, and the rest of it, and, artistically placed on the lefthand side, a carefully studied replica of the front of an airplane as seen from the observer's seat, and so on, so that people can say “it is just like it." But, pleasing as such a drawing might be to the eye, it would not begin to express how it really feels to be careering about, sideways, 1000 feet or so up in the air.

But will the “mad" method convey this more surely? My friends will laugh, of course.

They have laughed already at the halting efforts on the odd bits of paper.

Nevertheless I want to paint my Futurist Picture…I cannot help it…

To camouflage the starkness of man-dealt horrors

WWI camouflaged troop ship loading (c1918)
Bertram Wolfe, The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera. New York: Stein and Day, 1963, pp. 95-96—

Cubist disputes were at the flood in Paris in 1914. The gabble was rising higher and higher, when it was stilled by the cannon’s roar. All at once, M. Bourgeois recognized that M. Artiste might be useful after all: to draw recruiting posters; to use his power of accenting and distorting and concentrating reality to make war's horrors (as the enemy waged it, of course) more vivid and, if possible, more horrible; to use brush and paint and optics to make solid forms like trucks and cannon merge with their background; to camouflage the starkness and irrevocability of unnatural man-dealt death by adorning it with laurel leaves; at the very least, he might find a lowest common denominator with all able-bodied males of proper age and exchange brush for gun, thereby becoming, at last, a “useful” member of society. Art, in one form or another, enlisted or was drafted for the duration, and reintegrated into a disintegrating society.

Diego Rivera (1910)