Thursday, March 10, 2011

Camouflage and Everett Warner's Cousin

I recently found an old memoir by an American clergyman named John B. Ferguson, a graduate of Miami University of Ohio (1903), who was pastor for fourteen years at two Presbyterian churches in Indiana, in the towns of Howe and Hopewell, then later at the American Union Church in Manila in the Philippines. During World War I, he also served in France with the YMCA, an experience that he later described in Through the War with a Y Man (1919). It turns out that Ferguson was a relative of Everett Longley Warner, an American Impressionist painter who played an especially pivotal role in the development of US Navy ship camouflage during that war. In the book, Ferguson writes this about the day of his departure from New York Harbor for Europe on the SS Chicago (pp. 46-47)—

As was the case with most boats we did not sail immediately. It was exceedingly interesting to see all the camouflaged ships in the harbor. My artist cousin, Everett Warner, very graciously came to see me off. When I saw him come on deck, my first question was, "How did you get on this boat without a passport." He showed a little silver badge which meant the naval board, and I saw that ranks and badges were very important things in the army. From him I took my first lesson in the interesting art of camouflaging. A big freighter near us was all in gray and black. He told me how important it was to have the funnels properly done. There were many theories about it, and I suppose the cubists had their ideal opportunity, for the color scheme on some of the boats seemed to the layman's eye about the most conspicuous mark on any except a painted ocean.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Henry Adams on Art and Camouflage

[The images above are three stages in an illustration of a copperhead snake that first appeared in Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909) by Gerald Handerson Thayer, the son of American painter and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer, aka "the father of camouflage." As originally published, a cut-out overlay silhouette (center panel) could be placed on top of the painting of the snake in a forest floor setting, thereby revealing its location. The original painting, like many of the book's illustrations, was the collaborative work of Thayer, his son and his students, including (for this one) Rockwell Kent. Thayer's book in its entirety is available online through Google book search.—RB]

Ornithology, Infantry and Abstraction, by Henry Adams. Art and Antiques Magazine (March 2011). Modern camouflage was invented by artists who studied nature, and camouflage in turn influenced some of modernism's biggest breakthroughs. more>>