Saturday, October 29, 2011

Camouflage & the National Parks

From Linda Flint McClelland, Building the National Parks: Historic Landscape Design and Construction. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, pp. 459-460—
With the advent of aviation defense, camouflage emerged as a new field of design in World War II—one that was well suited to the skills and knowledge of landscape architects, many of whom had worked in the woods andhad spent almost a decade designing constructed improvements that blended into the natural scenery of state and national parks… Like the design of natural parks, the success of camouflage relied heavily upon site selection, adherence to principles of design which concealed form and detail, and the selection of appropriate materials often including natural vegetation. Camouflage required that development conform to the general character of the site and fit into the immediate surroundings, thereby following the natural contours of the land and avoiding raw scars of cuts and fills…
Camouflage research and development drew upon the skills and experience of several former park designers. At the offices of the Engineering Board of the Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, George L. Nason became the chief of the camouflage design office. His varied staff of designers—architects, landscape architects, illustrators, engineers, model makers, and site designers—included V[ivian] Roswell Ludgate, who had been the regional landscape architect for the National Park Service's Eastern Region, and Merel S. Sager, who had been a resident landscape architect for the Western Region since the late 1920s. Former Massachusetts state park inspector Edward B. Ballard served as an Air Corps for camouflage research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and regional landscape architect Norman T. Newton served as an intelligence and camouflage officer for the Air Corps at Pendleton Field, Oregon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Daniel Putnam Brinley

Daniel Putnam Brinley (1879-1963)

Above Daniel Putnam Brinley, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum (J0001309).


In earlier posts, we've talked about American muralist William Andrew Mackay, who was a major contributor to World War I ship camouflage. Over the years, we've been able to expand the list of those who worked with him as camouflage artists when he oversaw the painting of merchant ships in the New York area for the US Shipping Board. We've also found the names of those who studied with him at a camouflage school he established during the war, among them Harold Everitt Austin, Charles Bittinger, Henry Scott Bluhm, Thomas Casilear Cole, Maurice Lisso Freedman, Eric Gugler, W.S. Gephart, George Edgerly Harris, Kenneth S. Maclntire, Raymond J. Richardson, Frank Julius Spicker, Walter L. Ward, and Charles D. Bosisio. There were others as well.

A name that should be added is that of another muralist, Daniel Putnam Brinley (1879-1963), who not only worked on ship camouflage with Mackay, but may also have served in the US Army as a camoufleur. The primary documentation for this is in the Daniel Putnam Brinley and Katherine Sanger Brinley papers in the Archives of American Art. In that collection, there is a Brinley typescript that seems to be a chronology of his "camouflage work for navy" in Baltimore in October 1917. He mentions Mackay (referred to as "Mac") and Commander J.O. Fisher, who worked with Mackay on early experiments in ship camouflage. There is another interesting entry (dated October 21) in which he notes that, while visiting Fisher in Washington DC, he also "went over to the Camp [American University] to see what was going on with the [US Army] Camouflage Corps." In the following passage, he mentions three of the original members of that unit, William Twigg-Smith, William Nell and Barry Faulkner (a cousin of Abbott H. Thayer):

They [the Camouflage Corps] are still in rather a hectic state as far as I can see, and the chief interest at present is a vaudeville show [a fund-raising effort] they are getting up. I asked for Twigg but he was not around. I saw Billy Nell and he seemed to be enjoying himself although he said he had had a bad cold…They all wanted to know what had happened to me and when I told them they said they could not understand it especially Barry Faulkner as he said that the surgeon put him down as blind without his glasses! and some of the men said that they never had their eyes looked at, rather amusing is it not.

In a later entry, Brinley mentions another Army camoufleur, an illustrator named F. Earl Christy. Another document in the AAA collection is a letter written by Mackay on September 7 of that same year. Apparently Brinley (who had served in the Army in 1916, prior to the US participation in WWI) was hoping to be able to join the Army Camouflage Corps, and Mackay's letter is a verification of his experience and capabilities. It reads in part:

This is to certify that the bearer, Daniel Putnam Brinley has worked under my directions and is thoroughly familiar with the laws of light and form as applied to the term "Camouflage."

His knowledge of color for concealment is of greatest value and his ability to assist me on important experiments carried on for the United States Navy is of greatest importance.

One other odd connection: Of Brinley's artistic achievements, one of the best-known is a series of maps he created for the Liberty Memorial (the National World War I Museum) in Kansas City MO, which are on exhibit in Memory Hall. As noted in an earlier post, that same museum also has the surviving portion of a huge diorama, the Panthéon de la Guerre, completed in 1918 by French artists who were serving as army camoufleurs.


[Added June 23, 2014]: Brinley was also a member of the American Association of Painters and Sculptors (AAPS), which organized the Armory Show in New York in 1913. Shortly after its opening, they held an uproarious dinner at Healy's Restaurant in honor of "our Friends and Enemies of the Press." Elizabeth Lunday, in The Modern Art Invasion (Guilford CT: Lyons Press, 2013, p. 75), describes what happened as the evening wore on—

Perhaps inspired by the dancing waitresses, artist D. Putnam Brinley, who stood nearly seven feet tall, began a high-kicking contest, which he unsurprisingly won. Then the short, bearded sculptor Jo Davidson joined him on the floor, and he and Brinley danced a tango. A heavy knock was heard at the door and in walked a doddering old man in a long white beard and an old-fashioned stovepipe hat. He introduced himself as The National Academy of Design, then joined Davidson and Brinley in a riotous Turkey Trot.


 [Added January 15, 2016] Abel G. Warshawsky, The Memories of an American Impressionist. Ben L. Bassham, ed. Kent OH: Kent State University Press, 1980, p. 19—

My most difficult opponent in hand-wrestling was Putnam Brindly [sic], a young giant, six feet three in his socks, whom I met many years later decorating army huts on the French front when my brother and I were similarly engaged. He was then so tall that he could do stencils on the ceiling without using a ladder.

additional info

Friday, October 21, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Worden G. Wood

Rear Admiral John Lorimer Worden (1818-1897)

This is a wonderful photograph (detail) of USN Rear Admiral John Lorimer Worden, who commanded the ironclad USS Monitor during the American Civil War in its battle with the Merrimac (the CSS Virginia).

It's of interest here because Admiral Worden was the grandfather of marine painter and illustrator Worden G. Wood (1880-1943), who served as a camoufleur for the US Shipping Board (Emergency Fleet Corporation) during World War I.

Wood was born in Brooklyn, and attended school at Trinity School and Columbia University.  At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he joined the US Naval Reserve and served aboard the Yankee clipper. Later, he also served under General John J. Pershing in his pursuit of Pancho Villa.

In April 1917, he was assigned to the US Navy, and appears to have contributed to the development of camouflage for American merchant ships. On July 31, 1918, he was assigned to the camouflage branch of the Delaware River District in Philadelphia, but (for reasons that are unclear) was reassigned back to New York just ten days later.

As an illustrator and art director, he worked for various book and newspaper publishers, including the MacMillan Company, the New York World, the New York Herald, and the Boston Herald (for which he wrote about yachting).  As a marine painter, he was frequently commissioned to make paintings of ocean liners and other ships by major shipping firms.

For further information, see "Worden Wood, Marine Artist, Illustrator Had Served on World Staff" in New York Times, November 21, 1943, p. 56. William Bell Clark on "Camouflage Painting on the Delaware" in Philadelphia in the World War 1914-1919. NY: Philadelphia War History Committee 1922 (pp. 318-322).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Sheldon Pennoyer

American artist A(lbert) Sheldon Pennoyer (1888-1957) was originally from California. In 1913, he was living in Paris, where he was a student in the Architectural Section of the École des Beaux Arts. When his interests turned to art, he enrolled at the Académie Julian. Soon after, World War I broke out, and he returned to California.

In 1954 he wrote, “World War I found me in the 40th Engineers Camouflage Corps that was forming at Camp American University, Washington DC.” He recalls that one of the major events in the winter of 1917 was “the famous Camoufleurs’ Ball at the New Willard Hotel,”  for which Pennoyer was assigned by his commanding officer, Captain Aymar Embury II, “to build a model of a railroad field gun [shown here] which he wished to use as a centerpiece for his dinner table when he entertained a number of his officers and men before the opening of the ball… Sash pulleys for wheels, heavy cardboard mailing tubes for the gun barrel, plenty of quick-drying camouflage paint and moss representing the grass along the roadbed, tied in fairly closely with all we could see in a photograph we had of a railway gun in France. It had a fake realism quite in keeping with all the deception we, as camoufleurs, were attempting at the time.”•

That same winter, Pennoyer’s unit sailed to France, then traveled by train to Dijon. There, he and several others (with Sherry Edmundson Fry in the lead) were assigned by Embury to function as a liaison to the French camouflage section. In that capacity, one of his most challenging requests was to camouflage a massive fourteen-inch naval railway gun, with a firing range of up to thirty miles.

A lifelong railroad enthusiast, Pennoyer was especially known for his depictions of subjects related to railroads.

• Pennoyer, Sheldon (1954), Locomotives in Our Lives: Railroad Experiences of Three Brothers For More Than Sixty Years, 1890-1951. New York: Hastings House, pp. 26-34.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Charles H. Ebert

Charles H. Ebert (1873-1959)

Of late I have been trying to find information about an American impressionist painter named Charles H. Ebert (1873-1959). Born to affluent parents in Milwaukee, he grew up in Kansas City. His artistic training was at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and the Art Students League in New York. In 1894, he went to Paris to study, along with Charles Allan Gilbert (who contributed to ship camouflage in WWI), Ernest Kaiser, Oscar Lentz, and Ernest L. Blumenschein (who had earlier been his roommate). When he returned to the US in 1896, he became the chief political cartoonist for Life magazine. He resigned that position after four years, and moved to Greenwich CT to paint full-time and to study with John Henry Twachtman. While studying with Twachtman, he became acquainted with Mary Roberts, who was also an artist, as well as the inheritor of a family fortune that had come from her father's invention of a device for oil drilling. They married in 1908.

Mary Roberts Ebert had graduated in 1895 from Wellesley College. In that school's alumni notes for 1917, she is described as "living this winter in New York. Her husband, Carl [sic] Ebert, an artist noted for his landscape painting, is doing experimental work for the camouflage of ships at sea" (p. 119). Presumably, Ebert was working in New York, where he was probably among the team of civilian camouflage artists headed by William Andrew Mackay.

Photo credit: Charles H. Ebert, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0106662.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who Invented Dazzle Camouflage?

Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (1854-1942)

So who was the first to make use of disruptive patterns in ship camouflage, a practice that was widely known in World War I as dazzle camouflage? The easiest answer—and the one that's most often repeated—is British artist Norman Wilkinson, who proposed the use of dazzle painting in 1917, and who presumably gave it its name. Yet, from the very beginning, others have claimed to have thought of it first, notably the Scottish zoologist and Member of Parliament John Graham Kerr (1869-1957). A well-documented discussion, concluding on the side of Kerr, was published two years ago, in Hugh Murphy and Martin Bellamy's "The Dazzling Zoologist: John Graham Kerr and the Early Development of Ship Camouflage" in The Northern Mariner XIX No 2 (April 2009), pp. 171-192. Kerr called for the adoption of which he called "parti-coloring" as early as 1914.

Kerr was the teacher of zoologist and camoufleur Hugh B. Cott, who would later write Adaptive Coloration in Animals (1940). But he was also acquainted with (and largely approved of his theories) American artist and naturalist Abbott H. Thayer. In 1923, in "Camouflage in Nature and War" in the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly (Vol 10, p. 161), Thayer's son and collaborator Gerald suggested that his father and he could also have been credited with early accounts of dazzle camouflage. He writes, "The moving object [such as a ship] cannot, as a rule, be hidden, but it can be made less definite, more puzzling, a more 'tricky' and difficult target, by certain arrangements of color and pattern. This my father and I pointed out in 1909 in our book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom; and we there used the terms 'dazzle' and 'dazzling' very much as they have since been used in connection with the camouflage ships."

There are other complications too. The photo above is a portrait of American Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske who states in his autobiography (From Midshipman to Rear-Admiral. NY: Century Company 1919) that, as early as 1902, he had employed a dazzle-like method, to interfere with range-finding. He writes: "This scheme of preventing range-finding by an enemy was a scheme that I had devised when I was executive officer of the battleship Massachusetts in 1902. I had told possibly half a dozen officers about it under the pledge of secrecy, because I thought it would be a very valuable thing to use in case we ever got into war, but I wanted the idea kept secret. The scheme was simply to break up the smooth lines on a ship, such as the sides of masts, funnels, etc., by putting irregular strips of wood on them, or pieces of canvas that would flutter. To use the ordinary one-observer range-finder, a smooth vertical line is necessary; and I found by some experiments which I carried on on board the Massachusetts that accurate range-finding could be prevented by that simple means. One day I sent out a whale boat to a distance of about half a mile from the ship, with her two masts stepped. One mast had the irregular pieces of wood nailed on it, and the other was in its ordinary condition. I tried using the range-finder myself, and I found I could measure the ranges of the smooth mast very accurately, but of the other one only inaccurately. I did not tell anybody what I was trying to do, and I fancied from some of the fragments of comment that I heard that some people thought I had gone crazy" (pp. 620-621).

Auto Camouflage

Reconstructed Stolen Car (1921)

A post-World War I issue of Popular Science (January 1921, p. 36) reported the use of camouflage among car thieves:

"'Stolen—a seven-passenger touring car,' is not an uncommon message at Police Headquarters. When the police get a report like this, they watch out, naturally, for a large touring car. But the thieves may have changed its shape in the meantime.

Take, for example, the automobile shown above. As you see, it is a roadster having two seats. Originally it was a seven-passenger car. The men who stole it removed the entire rear end of the body and substituted for it boards and canvas. Disk wheels added to the disguise. It was through a mere chance that the police found the car."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Camouflage Artist | Howard V. Brown

We've talked about American muralist William Andrew Mackay in two earlier posts, one an overview of his life, the other a description of his initial approach to ship camouflage, in which he juxtaposed small patches of pure colors to produce at a distance an optical gray. During World War I, he was in charge of a unit of civilian camouflage artists, who were part of the US Shipping Board (aka the Emergency Fleet Corporation). Headquartered in Manhattan at 345 East 33rd Street, they were not responsible for designing dazzle camouflage (that was done by US Navy camoufleurs in Washington DC), but for adapting for various ships the sets of plans passed on to them. All this was discussed at length in an article by Raymond Francis Yates, titled "The Science of Camouflage Explained," in Everyday Engineering Magazine Vol 6 No 6 (March 1919), pp. 253-256. Of added significance is the cover of that issue (shown here), which features a painting of one of the artists in Mackay's unit, studying a dazzle-painted ship model through a periscope-like instrument that simulates viewing conditions at sea, from the view of a U-boat commander. It is even more interesting to find that the cover illustrator was Howard V. Brown (1878-1945), who was well known at the time for his engineering and science fiction magazine illustrations—alas, he was also a camoufleur in the unit headed by Mackay.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ann Elias: Camouflage Australia

Newly published Ann Elias, Camouflage Australia. Sydney AU: Sydney University Press, 2011. "Camouflage Australia tells a once secret and little known story of how the Australian government accepted the advice of zoologist William John Dakin and seconded the country's leading artists and designers, including Max Dupain and Frank Hinder, to deploy optical tricks and visual illusions for civilian and military protection. Their work was an array of ingenious constructions for the purpose of disguise and subterfuge. Drawing on previously unpublished photographs and documents, Camouflage Australia exposes the story of fraught collaborations between civilian and military personnel who disagreed over camouflage's value to wartime operations and the usefulness of artists to warfare." More