Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Isla Forsyth on Camoufleur Hugh B. Cott

H.B. Cott illustration, Adaptive Coloration in Animals (1940)

We've been fortunate in recent weeks to run across a new, major research document on zoology in relation to military camouflage. Titled From Dazzle to the Desert: A Cultural-Historical Geography of Camouflage, it is a 316-page doctoral dissertation by Isla Forsyth, who completed her PhD earlier this year at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

The study's central figure is a man we've blogged about before—the widely admired British zoologist and military camouflage expert named Hugh B. Cott (1900-1987). He was in addition wonderfully skilled as a scientific photographer and illustrator, and indeed one of the virtues of his authoritative book about animal camouflage, titled Adaptive Coloration in Animals (London: Methuen, 1940), is that he himself provided all its illustrations, whether photographs, stippled pen-and-ink drawings, or (as in his depiction of various frogs and a salamander, reproduced above) a full-color painting.

While Forsyth's dissertation was not intended as a standard biography of Cott, it nevertheless reveals a lot about a leading contributor to the theory and practice of camouflage. "This study on camouflage," as Forsyth explains, "draws attention to moments, places, sites, networks and spacings of [Hugh B.] Cott's life, not in an effort to close in around the individual and know him fully, but rather, as a means to extend the breadth and to cast greater clarity on the history of military camouflage. …it is a geographical biography of camouflage through Cott."

It is a fascinating document, supplemented by equally interesting photographs that pertain to camouflage. Let's hope it soon becomes a book. In the meantime, the entire dissertation is available online at this link.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Camouflage Artist | Barry Faulkner

New Hampshire muralist and camoufleur Barry Faulkner

In a number of earlier posts, we've talked about New Hampshire muralist Barry Faulkner (1881-1966) and the extent of his involvement (along with sculptor Sherry Edmundson Fry (1879-1966)) in organizing artists to serve in the American Camouflage Corps during World War I. Faulkner later talked about his wartime experiences in his autobiography, Sketches From An Artist's Life (Dublin NH,: William Bauhan, 1973), in which was also reproduced the above photograph.

Earlier this year, a substantial article by historian E. Malcolm Parkinson (associate professor emeritus of history at Worchester Polytechnic Institute) was featured in Prologue, a publication of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Vol 44 No 1 (Spring 2012). In the article, titled "The Artist at War: Painters, Muralist, Sculptors, Architects Worked to Provide Camouflage for Troops in World War I," Parkinson notes that while Faulkner is remembered for his commissioned murals—including two large paintings in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building (as shown below)—few people are aware of his role in the army. The entire article can now be accessed online. more>>

Faulkner's murals in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building