Monday, May 26, 2014

What Was It Like To Paint A Ship In Camouflage?

Above Port side (top) and starboard side of the SS War Magpie, a British cargo ship, painted in dazzle camouflage. The designs on the ship's two sides are deliberately different, in the hope of increasing  confusion and preventing identification, when viewed through a U-boat periscope. The original photographs, made c1919 by Allan C. Green, are in the collection of the Victoria State Library AU. When ship camouflage was first applied, the colors were vivid and sharply defined, but after a few months at sea, it began to deteriorate, as is evident here.


What was it like to paint a ship in camouflage? We've seen a handful of photographs of ship camoufleurs at work. And now and then we've run across brief eyewitness memories of the process of actually painting a ship. But the following is the most detailed account we've found so far. Its American author is not credited, but it is stated that the essay first appeared in The Christian Science Monitor. We found it in reprinted form in THE WHY AND HOW OF DAZZLE in The Daily News (Perth, Western Australia), May 19, 1919, p. 4—

They certainly did look strange, those ships; patched and lined, like grandmother's crazy quilt with broad black, white and blue bands and stripes, gray, green, and almost every color save the mythical sky-blue-pink.

Passengers on the ferries lined the rails and made many and varied comments on their strange appearance.…

Painting a ship is very simple—theoretically—just take a brush and paint and "go to it"—just like that. Of course we [American ship camoufleurs] had a plan, a design furnished by the Navy Department, which showed a view of the two sides of the ship (the sides were different, by the way), and a husky gang of painters, but ship painting is different from painting a house; much larger, oh vastly.

When we first stood under the bows of a newly launched tank steamer and looked up at her, she was an appalling thing to a novice. Thirty-five feet out of water the bow towered, a sheer wall of steel, flaring outward at the top to make it doubly difficult. On that curving rampart we had to make accurate lines in curves, and beautiful parabolas (I think that is the word). At any rate, I would have given the old family clock and all my loose change just that minute for a pair of foot warmers.

It wasn't so bad after we started, though the first ship was far from a model. Slinging stages over the bow, we put two painters on them with poles and chalk, and by gestures and megaphoned instructions from the wharf had them spot in points on the curves and connect them.•

It is quite impossible, unless one is highly experienced, to draw these curves and lines when standing close to the ship. One needs to be 100 feet away properly to judge the proportion; and the effectiveness of the design depends largely on its accuracy. Later we learned to use a mirror, flashing the spots on the side one after the other along the course of a curve, and stretching a long chalk line for the straights snapped by a man in the center. Sometimes we used long "battens," strips of thin board, bending them to the proper curve, and a 20-foot fish pole with a brush on the tip helped to strike in the more complicated forms. Strange as it may seem, the hardest forms to apply to a ship are long parallel straight lines which converge to points near bow or stern. For some reason we never could seem to get the angles just right. 

It was no place for a dainty man, when working on the floats alongside, for a rain of things descended on us. Bolts, hot rivets, scraps of iron, and heavier things like lumps of wood and heavy pieces of rope, when working in the shipyards, come down at unexpected intervals. No use yelling up at the man on the deck to be careful—with 500 men hammering and drilling and reaming, conversation is at a discount. You can only dodge and grin cheerfully at the painters.

Then again tugs and steamers have a way of pulling a heavy wash into the slips when one is on a high staging 12 feet or so above the water. The float rocks violently without the slightest warning, and if you have not fallen overboard at the first roll you drop on your hands and knees and grip until the float is fairly still again. When this is past, and you are congratulating yourself, some enthusiastic painter tips over his pail of dark blue, or whatever color he happens to be using, directly above you, perhaps, or the cook happens to think of some refuse that needs disposing of, and then there are holes in the side of the ship where water—hot or cold—pops out without any warning. A camoufleur is not a camoufleur unless he falls overboard regularly once a week.

Still it was a great game while it lasted, taken with the interesting experimental work on little models in a mechanical theatre with a sea foreground and a painted strip to imitate sky—this in the intervals of ship painting. The dazzle painted ships are now fast disappearing under their peace coats of gray. May they never again need the services of American camoufleurs.

• This method of initially putting in dots, then connecting them, is comparable to pouncing, a technique used by artists for transferring a design from one surface to another.

more info

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Gulls, Hulls and Baby Carriage Camouflage

Above Believe it or not, this is a World War 1-era baby carriage, made by an unknown artist, apparently as a tribute to dazzle ship camouflage. It was published on April 27, 1919, in the Junior Eagle Section of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn NY), p. 10. The only accompanying texts were the headings shown here: SOMETHING NEW—A CAMOUFLAGED BABY CARRIAGE: Shown at a Recent Art Exhibition—How Would You Like to Ride In It?


Jessie Henderson, CAMOUFLAGE SHIP ON MOVIE LOT TO SAVE LIVES OF GULLS in the Appleton Post-Crescent (Appleton WI), February 25, 1932—

The lives of a number of sea gulls have been saved as the result of the application of wartime camouflage to the huge steamship setting on the south lot of the Fox studios at Movietone City [in Hollywood]. Because of its camouflage the boat no longer looks like a steamship to the hostile aviators who in a coming picture will seek it from the air. Because of its camouflage it also no longer looks like a steamship to the sea gulls.

Built originally for scenes in the Joan Bennett [and] John Boles picture Widow's Might, the ship is unusually large and realistic. It attracted a number of storm-blown gulls from the Pacific shores, less than 10 miles distant. The arrival of the birds was taken in the nature of a joke and as they circled through the air during the filming of the picture their presence lent a valuable touch of reality to the shipboard action.

After the completion of the picture, however, the birds continued to circle the ship. When two of them fell to the ground exhausted it was decided that they had through the ship a real one and had been waiting patiently for food to be thrown overboard from the galley.

The camouflage has served a two-fold purpose. It has sent the birds away and has relieved the feelings of the more nervous studio workers who were unaccustomed to having so many gulls sail over their heads.

To Take Off Weight—Use Camouflage

G.L. Stampa, Punch (1919)
Above Cartoon by G.L. Stampa in Punch magazine, July 2, 1919, p. 26. The caption reads: She: "What a wonderful costume Mr. Bulkley has." He: "Yes. He's rather sensitive about his outline. It's the camouflage idea to prevent being noticed." Other cartoons (from the same time period) about the camouflage of fat are featured below on this blog post.


Betty Keep, DRESS SENSE (advice column) in The Australian Women's Weekly, September 30, 1970, p. 45—

[Question] I am short, just five feet, and overweight. My problem is a short waist and it's thick. Is there any fashion I can wear to make me look better? I do like to follow current fashion.

[Answer] Don't draw attention to your waist; I know this is difficult when nearly every fashion is now belted. The best camouflage I know is to accent the waist either slightly above or below your normal waist level.

Alfred J. Frueh (details), New York World (July 20, 1915)

Ida C. Clarke [author of American Women and the World War] in LOVELY WOMAN: Viewed by Herself, A Witty Address, in The Mail (Adelaide, South Australia), January 9, 1926, p. 22—

Not long ago I saw in a paper a long, nice, lovely story, stating that the War Department says now we can tell all about camouflage. Here was this nice, lovely story telling nice things about how the two systems of camouflage happened to be invented by man—the low visibility system and the dazzle system. And I said to myself, here is a man imagining that he invented camouflage, when, after all, for centuries, ever since time began, women have been practicing that gentle art of camouflage.

There isn't a fat woman under the sun that doesn't know the advantages of the low visibility system of camouflage. Fat women know they must not wear stripes that go round, and, of course, the dazzle system is in very general use. So men did not invent camouflage. What man did was to take women's invention and apply it to the most destructive business that man has ever invented—war.


Anon, NEW BOON FOR PLUMP: Fat Legs Made to Look Thin, in The Mail (Adelaide, South Australia), December 19, 1931, p. 22—

Women need no longer feel sensitive and embarrassed if they are the unfortunate possessors of fat legs.

Combining compassion with commercial initiative, the stocking manufacturers of France have gone to the rescue of these women and have hit on the great idea of evolving a camouflage system to disguise unsightly ankles.

Now they have extended this system to the whole leg, and are making specially shaded stockings to disguise fat legs.

These stockings shaded gradually from dark yellow or blue at the back to light yellow or light blue at the front, have the effect of making thick legs look slim.

Artist's name unclear, Life magazine (1918)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Perspective Illusions in Camouflage

Joseph Allen Minturn (c1921), camouflage backdrops
The use of perspective distortions (such as forced perspective) in World War 1 camouflage (both army and navy) has historical precedents in art, architecture and stage design. Above are two drawings of the supposed use of huge panoramic backdrops that created the illusion of a benign, continuing landscape, while also serving as a shield for military activities taking place behind them. These drawings were made by American artist and US Army camoufleur Joseph Allen Minturn and were published in his memoir, titled The American Spirit (Globe Publishing, 1921), available free online.

Surely, these trompe l'oeil backdrops cannot have been used very often because they only work effectively if viewed from front and center.

Below is one of the few photographs of an installed backdrop, but because it was photographed off-center from the right, the illusion that the railroad tracks continue into the distance is simply not convincing.

One that is far more convincing was used for editorial purposes in a newspaper cartoon (c1919) shown below, titled CAMOUFLAGE.

In addition, a few days ago, we ran across a reference to a comparable trick in an unsigned WW1 news article headed WILL YOU TELL ME? in The World's News (Sydney AU), February 9, 1018, p. 20—

…The foremost artists of France are engaged in this magic work [of camouflage], and an American unit of camoufleurs has been organized… One of the most amazing exploits in camouflage was achieved by the French last year. A German position commanded a railway track far into the distance back of the French lines. One night there was set up across a village street that was needed a huge painting of the track, trees, poles, horizon, hills and all. The trains passed safely behind the screen. The enemy never discovered the trick.

WW1 Camouflaged Misogyny—After a Fashion

Civilian examples of camouflage (1917)
Above Camouflage and fashion cartoon (digitally restored) from The Ogden Standard (Ogden UT), December 3, 1917, p. 11.


Anon, CONEY ISLAND WAR THRILLS in The World's News (Sydney AU), August 23, 1919, p. 19—

Americans are experiencing many thrills of near participation in the war this summer. A great number of novel reproductions of action along the battle fronts, in the air, and at sea, are to be seen at Coney Island (New York) and similar holiday resorts.

…A popular device…is called "Treat 'em rough," which was the motto of the American Tank Corps during the war. Patrons are strapped in seats and sent through an extraordinary series of up and down and sidewise motions that only the strongest constitutions can successfully stand. This new "stunt" is advertised as guaranteed to reduce fat and put anybody in trim for an army career.

Coney Island is attempting daring water novelties this summer in the form of bathing suits for feminine wear, consisting of single-piece garments with zigzag stripes. They are called "camouflage suits"—because it is so difficult to see them.


Anon, from BRITISH AND FOREIGN in Alburry Banner and Wodonga Express (New South Wales AU), August 8, 1919, p. 35—

Girls so cleverly camouflaged that it was difficult for the audience to tell whether they were looking at the faces or the backs of the girls, greatly amused the Queen [of England] who attended an exhibition of drill given them at the Savoy Hotel, London, on a recent occasion.


From the Melbourne Punch (Victoria AU), May 16, 1918, p. 32—

A lately returned traveler from Sydney tells us we are awfully dull down here—that life up there is so Continental it is dine out at some hotel or restaurant (of which there are many to choose from) every evening, wearing a whitewash complexion, watermelon lips, a camouflage skirt, and the merest whisper of a dinner blouse; then on to a theatre; thence to a cocktail supper.


Anon, from THE WEEK in The World's News (Sydney AU), April 13, 1918, p. 14—

Dame Fashion is a fool, and that is putting it mildly. She decrees that women must adopt camouflage for their dress. What need is there for any such thing? Hasn't woman camouflaged ever since Eve took Adam in over the apple? Of course she has, and will continue to do it just whenever it suits her ideas. If she wants to win a post that wheedling won't accomplish, she camouflages her face with tears, and lo, she arrives at the desired end. And what she can do with rouge and powder passes all understanding. It is camouflage carried to a fine art. What man could tell that the short-frocked, finely-complexioned, sixteen-year-old hatted person at a distance was over forty and the mother of six? That is camouflage, and with a vengeance, and yet Fashion wants to add to it by use on dresses. If it means that plain cotton stuff at 1s 2d the yard, six yards for 6s 6d, can be so faked by the skillful dressmaker as to appear like a silk confection at a guinea a yard, by all means camouflage. But if it means turning a probable ten-guinea costume into a twenty-pounder, then camouflage is a miserable failure. Everything depends upon what that fickle jade, Fashion, is after. Usually she strives to deplete the purse of the hardworking husband or father, but if in this case, as in the case of ships, the object is to save—then camouflage for ever.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chintzy Camouflage Fashions

Blending camouflage by Starr Wood (1921)
Above A camouflage-fashion related cartoon by British artist Starr Wood, as published in Punch magazine, August 3, 1921, p. 81. The caption reads Unfortunate Situation for a Lady Who Paid a Local Call in a Chintz Costume.


Anon, DAZZLE FASHIONS, in the South Wales Weekly Post (Wales), March 29, 1919, p. 1—

"The very latest spring fashion will be a dazzle suit," said a West End tailor. "The colors instead of being woven in stripes or checks will blend in a kind of futurist combination, artistic but not outrageous.

Popular taste is running to color in clothes. Neckties and socks will be much more gorgeous, and in masculine modes generally there is a demand for the picturesque, and a revolt against severe tones and lines."


Eleanor, FASHION NOTES: The Camouflage Skirt, in the Sunday Times (Sydney AU), April 28, 1918, p. 18—

The name camouflage is generally applied to those skirts of crazy silks, cretonne and the heavily patterned silk and woolen mixture, made with myriads of small pleats, or large ones which extend over the hips hiding the true outline of the patterned material except where the skirt flared some inches above the hem. When carried out in striped or checked material, the pleats are sometimes arranged to obscure one of the colors, giving the top of the skirt a plain effect, the stripes only being visible where the fare of the hem commences.

Modified editions of camouflage skirts carried out in the new crazy silks are really graceful. Some of them are gathered at the waist instead of pleated, others introduce plain panels at the front and back with pleats at the sides. Checked material is fashionable, and the larger designs make up well in camouflage style. These skirts are serviceable and smart for morning wear, and combine admirably with plain shirt blouses.


Coatless Brigade, in SHIRT REFORM: Badly Needed, in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Queensland AU), January 14, 1934, p. 6—

…something will have to be done about those [outlandish men's] shirts. Some of them are positively indecent and revolting—by indecent is meant those that offend the eye, not the morals. None, except a crazy camouflage expert, can see beauty, grace, purity, or even coolness in a portly figure draped in little more than the mistaken glory of a pale, green shirt with purple trimmings. Such a sight has a shocking reaction on the optical nerves, causes a rush of blood to the head, and provokes a fever of prickly heat on the body of anyone who can lay the slightest claim to have aesthetic tastes.


 Anon, Carmarthen Weekly Reporter (Wales), March 22, 1918, p. 3—

[A certain military officer] in the course of his address on Friday night said that he had seen a lady make a "meat pie" without any meat in it. The explanation was that it tasted like a meat pie. It is evident that the art of camouflage is making its way from the firing line to the kitchen.

additional sources

Friday, May 16, 2014

WW1 Ship Camouflage Secrecy & Arrests

USS Leviathan in camouflage (1918)
Above Close-up view of the port side camouflage of the USS Leviathan, at South Side Pier No. 4, Hoboken NJ on April 19, 1918, three days after Childe Hassam's arrest (see story below). US Naval Historical Center 51394.


From Roy R. Behrens, CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Bobolink Books, 2009, pp. 182-183—

[Frederick] Childe (pronounced "child") Hassam was an important American impressionist, and a member of a group of artists known as The Ten. He was an admirer of Abbott H. Thayer and was well acquainted with the latter's theories of natural camouflage. He was also an early supporter of the efforts of younger artists to serve as WW1 camoufleurs.

As reported in the New York Times (CHILDE HASSAM ARRESTED, 1918), he was arrested and turned over to federal authorities on April 16, 1918, in Riverside Park when a New York policeman observed him making a sketch of a camouflaged US transport ship, anchored in the harbor. He was quickly released, then later used the drawing to produce a lithograph titled Camouflage, which signed "arrested for this Childe Hassam, 1918."


Anon, NAUGHTY FILMS SEIZED: Bathing-Suit Girls and Waterfront Scenes Interest Amateurs, in the Morning Oregonian (Portland OR), June 7, 1918, p. 7—

What is said to be the most unusual photographic exhibit collected in Portland is in the hands of Chief of Police Johnson. The collections comprises pictures taken along the waterfront and on islands in the Williamette River and includes pictures from camouflaged ships to bathing suit girls.

The pictures are from films confiscated by the police.

"Some are, well, just naughty, and I intend to destroy them so as not to cause anyone any embarrassment," said Chief Johnson. "Unless camera fiends use precautions they will be subject to arrest and punishment. No one is allowed to take photographs on the waterfront, without special permission from the Government."


From MORE UNIONS THREATEN TO HOLD UP SHIPBUILDING, in Rogue River Courier (Grants Pass OR), March 31, 1918, p. 1—

NEW YORK, March 30—The work of camouflaging ships in this harbor may be brought to a halt next week unless the demands of ship painters for a raise in pay is granted.

The painters, who now get 60 cents an hour, ask for an increase of 20 cents and threaten to strike tomorrow unless their demands are granted.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More on Camoufleur Frederick J. Waugh

Frederick J. Waugh, SS West Mahomet (ship and model) (c1919)
Above (top) More persuasive evidence of the ingenuity of American ship camouflage artist Frederick Judd Waugh. This is his design for the camouflage of the starboard side of the SS West Mahomet, and below that is Waugh's hand-painted model. Note how improvisational the model is, making use of nails and other cast-off scraps.


Anon, CAMOUFLAGE in the Wanganui Chronicle (New Zealand), February 7, 1918, p. 4—

…Visitors to Wellington—or even Castlecliff during the past few days—may have seen excellent examples of the art of camouflage, big liners looking extremely weird with extraordinary markings. These are designed to make the ships poor targets for submarine gunners, the markings deceiving the eye to such an extent that it is difficult to distinguish ship from water. Wonderful are the uses of camouflage, not in the sphere of war alone, but in all phases of life! For, after all, does not camouflage play a very large part in the daily round? We see it everywhere. We laugh at our neighbor's little deceit—which after all only deceives himself—quite oblivious of our neighbor's chuckle regarding our own little tricks. Some uses of camouflage are amusing; some pathetic. The ass which donned the lion's skin was not so stupid as the man or woman who, by means of powder, hair, or clothes, tries to make the world believe Time has treated him or her as it does the ocean. The middle-aged woman cannot become a young girl by donning the dress of a young girl; and the middle-aged man cannot become a boy by trundling a hoop in the street. They may—and often do—deceive some people for a time, but sooner or later the camouflage is penetrated and the truth stands revealed. Is the deception worthwhile? Nobody—least of all those who practice it—will say so. Then, in the commercial and social sphere, camouflage plays its part, the users fondly believing that they are deceiving the world at large regarding their position and prospects. And, be it admitted, very often their belief is well grounded! But there is always the fear that some accident may break down the camouflage, and the constant guard against that disaster keeps the user on the rack.

Frederick J. Waugh painting a ship model (c1919)

Anon, RED RAIN FALLS IN SALE: Curious Effect on Countryside, in Gippsland Times (Gippsland, Victoria AU), November 16, 1944, p. 1—

During Sunday night and the early part of Monday, dust-impregnated rain [called "red rain" or "blood rain"] fell throughout the whole district. Residents were amazed on emerging from their homes to discover that everything which came within range of vision, appeared to have changed color overnight.

…The effect was incongruous. Where the rain has missed, dry dust lay. Where the rain had fallen, splotchy marks were left. The entire effect was as though some crazy camouflage artist had executed an ultra futuristic design.

other sources

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Camouflage Artist | Frederick J. Waugh

Camouflage of USS Proteus by Frederick J. Waugh (c1918)
In earlier posts, we've talked about American painter Frederick Judd Waugh (1861-1940), a World War 1 ship camoufleur who worked with Everett L. Warner. As Warner describes in the notes he used for a postwar slide talk on ship camouflage, the 57-year-old marine artist Waugh was the team's most resourceful designer. As evidence, Warner in his notes describes Waugh's solution for "dazzle-painting" the collier USS Proteus, a cargo ship for carrying coal. Above (top) is a photograph of the starboard side of the painted wooden model of the plan proposed by Waugh, while below that is a 1918 photograph of the actual painted ship, as seen from the bow and the port side. Here is what Warner recalled in his notes about the process of designing it—

The eye is so accustomed to the normal operation of the laws of perspective that if you were to see a group of telegraph poles, and they had been so graded in height that the nearest one was much the shortest, you would be likely to think that the tall one in the distance was the nearest. I remember this design well because it cost me a box of cigars. When the model came in (a collier looks like an unfinished skyscraper afloat) it looked like such a difficult problem that I offered a box of cigars if any one of the designers could fool me with a design. Mr. [Frederick] Waugh won the box of cigars, but the joke was on him as he does not smoke. [It was] An effective design, but one belonging to [the] early period before we had entered the realm of solid geometry.


Cecelia Van Auken, COLLECTOR'S LONG-TIME LOVE AFFAIR WITH PAINTINGS OF FREDERICK WAUGH. Bridgeport Sunday Post (Bridgeport CT), July 19, 1970 , pp. 3 and 12—

The Waughs' idyllic life in Kent [CT] was interrupted in 1918, where they had moved four years previously, when Waugh, because of his extraordinary knowledge of the sea, was asked [by Everett Warner] to take part in the important work of marine camouflage being carried on by the Navy department. He went to Washington [DC] for the duration.


Anon, HAD TO FALL BACK ON LUNCH: Seemed the Only Thing Left to Which Host Could Invite His Artistic Friends. Dakota County Herald (Dakota City NE), January 19, 1922, p.2—

Mr. Heming tells an amusing little incident to disprove the general belief that artists are temperamental, dissipated creatures who thrive on the white lights. In the ancient days before prohibition Mr. Heming was in New York to invite American artists to exhibit in the Canadian national exhibit in Toronto. Gardner Symons, the well-known American artist, invited Heming and Frederick Waugh, another leading artist, to dinner at the National Arts club. "Let's go down and have a cocktail before lunch," said Symons. "I never take anything," said Heming. "Neither do I," said Waugh. Symons laughed. "That's funny," he said. "Neither do I, but anyway we'll have some cigars." "I don't smoke," said Waugh. "And I don't smoke," said Heming. "Well, this is a great joke," said Symons. "I don't smoke either, but I thought you fellows would at least take a cigar. Say, you eat, don't you?—because I've ordered lunch."


Anon, VISUAL THERAPY in Morning Herald (Hagerstown MD), March 10, 1953, p. 8—

Fine paintings on a hospital wall constitute a "visual therapy" and are helpful to the sick, New York hospital workers say…We think this very probable and are sure the routine paintings and prints on such walls up to now retard recovery…(A still-life showing a faded apple, a couple of green pears and a slice of melon once kept us laid up at least a week longer than was necessary.)…We remain a little skeptical about the masters…We want no doctor to prescribe a Picasso when we can get a good Frederick Waugh or Winslow Homer…A lot of widely heralded moderns make us sick…


Anon, MAKES UNIQUE PICTURES FROM BITS OF DRIFTWOOD: Many-Sided Waugh, Known to Milwaukee Through Marine Paintings, Expresses Inspiration in Diverse Forms, in the Milwaukee Sentinel, January 15, 1922 [announcing an exhibition of Waugh's driftwood artwork at the Milwaukee Art Institute]—

…When the Boer War was on and [Frederick] Waugh was painting in London  he even temporarily gave up the game of chance as to an artist's livelihood to rehandle sketches sent back to the London Graphic by officers and artists at the front. When no sketches came in, telegraphic description was all the data he needed for his series of spirited battle pictures.

His knowledge of sea-craft and ready enthusiasm made him a most valuable assistant in the bureau of camouflage during the late war.

…From his home in Mount Clair NJ, Waugh often went down to wander along the beach of his always bel0ved sea. The usual driftwood, remnants of ruined craft, bits of tree roots and gnarled branches from only the waves know where, have always fascinated him. He often gathered them up. Their curious shapes kindled his imagination. His creative desire wound itself around their blanched, smooth surfaces and he set about to make them beautiful, to incorporate them into art.

With knives and paints, brush and ingenious vision he worked these bits of driftwood into designs, pictures if you will, charming things, delicately colored.…

Twenty-eight drawings by Waugh, derived in part from gnarled wood shapes, were used as illustrations for a children's book titled The Clan of Munes (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). The original book illustrations were recently exhibited at the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University (Wichita KS) from January 25 through April 13, 2014. The same museum owns a large collection of more than 300 artworks by Waugh, donated in 1974 by Edwin A. Ulrich.


See also an earlier mention of Waugh in Vladimir Nabokov's scandalous novel, Lolita (New York: Knopf, 1992). Below A portrait of Waugh (1929) in Peter A. Juley and Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Peter A. Juley & Son, Portrait of Frederick Judd Waugh (1929)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Horse of a Different Color & Stripe

Albino Zebra
Above Photograph of an albino zebra, from a Creative Commons image on Wikimedia.


Add this to our earlier postings (here and here) about the World War 1 practice of camouflaging horses by coloring them with paint or dye. Anon, PAINTING HORSES FOR SERVICE in Northern Times (Carnarvon, Western Australia), January 13, 1917, p. 5—

Protective coloration for military equipment—a lesson in the art of warfare taught extensively on the battlefields of Europe—is being put into practice on the Mexican border says a contemporary. Schemes to render military equipment invisible at comparatively short distances as in vogue in Europe today include the dyeing of horse so that they will merge with the landscape, covering the embankments of isolated batteries with foliage, and painting warships with wavy streaks which have the effect of making them hard to distinguish against the background of a heavy sea. Dyeing a horse to remove his distinctive coloration is one of the first of these lessons to be applied by the United States army on the border. The dye which is in use at this time in the cavalry and artillery camps along the Rio Grande, when applied with a grooming brush or sponge after the hair of the cavalry mount or artillery horse has been thoroughly dampened, will change a dark chestnut to a yellow dun. The animal so treated has been found to be almost invisible at any distance over five hundred paces. It is an easy matter, according to army veterinarians, to vary the strength of the dye used so as to approximate almost the exact coloration of any locality.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hen House Camouflage | World War 1

Fox and hounds—and chickens (1917)
Above (top) The US entered World War 1 in 1917. In advance of that, a group of American artists organized a group they called the New York Camouflage Corps. Later, when the Army officially formed a camouflage corps, various publicity photos were sent to news agencies throughout the country, for the public's amusement and morale. This was one of them. It documents a silly attempt by a misguided amateur camoufleur to soften the visual distinction between a hen house and a farmyard. (bottom) When news of this absurdity reached the UK, Irish cartoonist and Olympic medalist Jack B. Yeats (the younger brother of poet William Butler Yeats), who signed his drawings as "W. Bird," suggested that the same device might scare off the fox from the hen house. It was published in Punch (August 22, 1917, p. 127) with the caption: A poultry-fancier, hearing that defenses at the Front are sometimes disguised as hen houses, determined to reverse the process. Being a bit of an artist he disguised his hen house by giving it a warlike appearance. The enemy was stricken with panic.

• Our thanks to Richard Hawkins for supplying additional info.


Anon in CAMOUFLAGE in the Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (New South Wales AU), July 31, 1942, p. 2—

Camouflage is the art of making the other chap think he sees something that isn't there by making the thing he imagines is there to be the thing he assumes isn't there. This principle holds good for all branches of camouflage, like the wife conjuring a new hat out of the household bills, or her mother disguising herself as a welcome guest.

However, not till one joins the army does one realize what real camouflage means. A complete division once camouflaged itself so successfully in a 10-acre paddock that two other divisions camped on the spot without suspecting anything amiss till their beer and tobacco began to vanish.

Other examples of perfect camouflage are making restful ease look like hard yakks, tossing the brown as air-spotting, and using tram tickets as 14-day passes. If a "shrewd head" is sufficiently adept he can camouflage himself as a neatly folded blanket and spend a peaceful day in the tent. Our sergeant cook is an adept at camouflaging old boots as beefsteak.

There appears to be a great future for camouflage. The man who discovered a satisfactory way of camouflaging water as beer and vice versa for after hours will die honored by millions. And perhaps some genius may arise who can even camouflage Eddie Ward [Australian politician] to look like something useful.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dazzle-Camouflaged Zebra

Above World War I-era cartoon by George Morrow, published in Punch magazine, April 7, 1915, p. 280. The caption reads: REMARKABLE CASE OF PROTECTIVE COLORING. Owing, it is believed, to the fears of a German invasion, a zebra at the zoo assumes a neutral aspect.

• Protectively colored (in "stars and stripes") from a British point of view, presumably because the US was still neutral in the war.


Anon, CONTEMPORARY CAMOUFLAGE in The Catholic Press (Sydney AU), January 17, 1924, p, 51—

Son: "Is it true about the ass disguising himself with a lion's skin?"

Father: "So the fable goes; but now the colleges do it with a sheep skin."

Dazzle Balls and Cricketeers

Cartoon by Tom Cottrell in Punch (1919)
Above In early 1919, with the end of the Great War at hand, increased coverage was allowed of the wartime use of dazzle-painting for ship camouflage. Dazzle patterns became immensely popular, particularly in women's bathing attire, and costume party outfits. In this cartoon by Tom Cottrell from the British magazine Punch (January 22, 1919, p. 59), it was suggested that a "brighter cricket" might result from the adoption of dazzle-painted sports uniforms.


In the winter of 1917, US Army camoufleurs held a Camoufleurs' Ball at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC, an event that was attended by President Woodrow Wilson. On March 12, 1919 (as featured in an earlier post) the Chelsea Arts Club held a colorful costume party, called a Dazzle Ball, on March 12, 1919, at Royal Albert Hall in London. A comparable celebration, also called a Dazzle Ball, took place seven months later in Sydney AU, on the night of October 7, 1919. The Sydney event, the purpose of which was a fundraiser for the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, was glowingly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on the following day, October 8, 1919, in DAZZLE BALL: A WONDERFUL SCENE IN TOWN HALL. Here are two excerpts—

Dazzle Ball! It was indeed. The like of it has never been seen in Sydney before. It was a riotous profusion, a bewildering confusion, of whirling life and color, a wonderful picture that shimmered and glistened wherever you looked. The floor, reflecting the whirling feet and costumes of a thousand hues as in a mirror, was thronged…

The ball was a dazzling mass of color even without the dancers and the beautiful fancy sets. The whole of the balustrading and the pillars were blotted out with drapings camouflaged in all colors of the rainbow, arranged not to give harmonious effects, but just the reverse—to give out a great riotous jumble of colors to make it all look bizarre. Take the mind back to any one of the strangest-looking of the camouflaged ships that came into the harbor during the war, try to conceive of an even more extraordinary jumble of colors, and you have an idea of the setting for the Dazzle Ball…

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Social Uses of Camouflage

Dazzle-Painted Ship (c1919)
Above Unidentified World War I dazzle-camouflaged ship (probably British) (c1919).


Anon, from CAMOUFLAGE in the Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga NSW), April 11, 1941, p. 4—

He was a widower, getting along in years, and no longer handsome. "You are the fifth girl I have proposed to without avail," he said. "Well," said the girl kindly, "better wear one next time. Maybe you'll have better luck."


Anon, from CAMOUFLAGE in the Camperdown Chronicle (Victoria AU), December 13, 1919, p. 4—

Jones: "I used to have a beard like yours, but when I saw it in the glass I shaved it off at once!" Bones: "Did you? Well, I used to have a face like yours, but when I saw it in the glass I grew this beard."


Anon, from CAMOUFLAGE in the Mirror (Perth AU), January 8, 1944, p. 6—

[American actress] Kay Francis, at a party encountered Orry-Kelly, the [Australian-born Hollywood costume designer and] dress designer, and said, "I was so surprised to read that you are going into the camouflage division. "Why should you be surprised?" he replied, "I've been camouflaging you for years."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Your Stern Is Where Your Head Should Be

Directional distortion plan (1918)
Above Anon, detail of a colored drawing of a World War I dazzle ship camouflage plan in the collection of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). In the original, there is a hand-printed caption that reads "example showing 'direction' of ship reversed." There is also a smaller notation that reads "SRNR 1918" or "SRHR 1918," which may be the originator's signature, or perhaps the "NR" means Naval Reserves. In the drawing, the front of the ship (the bow) is on the left, but it has been painted to look like the rear (the stern). The actual stern (on the right) has been painted to look like the bow. From a distant view through a periscope, an observer might conclude that the ship is heading toward the right, when in fact the opposite is true. At the bottom of this web page is a related drawing (artist unknown) that accompanied a magazine article by Lloyd Seaman titled "Masterpieces of Navy Camouflage" in Popular Mechanics magazine Vol 31, 1919, pp. 217-219.


Anon in "Admiralty's Humor" in the Breckenridge News (Cloverport KY), May 14, 1919, p. 7—

An old sea captain wrote to the [British Admiralty] complaining, more in sorrow than in anger, of the way in which the ship had been dazzle-painted: "First, you make me look like a parrot, and then you make me look like a haystack, and I don't want to look like either." He got back the official reply:

"We don't want you to look like either a parrot or a haystack, but we do want you to look as if your stern was where your head ought to be."


Mingo White, a former Alabama slave, from an interview by Levi D. Shelby Jr. in 1937, as part of the Federal Writers Project, now in the US Library of Congress

[Confederacy President] Jeff[erson] Davis was as smart a man as you ever want to see. During the [American Civil] war he sheared his horse in such a way that he looked like he was going one way when he'd be going the other.


A. Russell Bond in "Warriors of the Paint-Brush" in St. Nicholas magazine Vol XLVI (November 1918-April 1919), pp. 499-505—

Early in the submarine campaign, one of our [US merchant] boats was given a coat of camouflage, and when the vessel sailed from its pier in the North River, New York, its owners sent a photographer two or three piers down the river to photograph the ship as she went by. He took the pictures, but when the negative was developed, he found, much to his astonishment, that the boat was not all on the plate. In the finder of his camera, he had mistaken a heavy band of black paint as the stern of the ship, quite overlooking the real stern, which was painted a grayish white. The [camouflage] artist had fooled the photographer, and at a distance of not more than two or three hundred yards!

Distortion of bow, stern and smoke stacks (1919)
additional sources

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Camouflage Artist | W.W. Henderson

W.W. Henderson (c1918), ship camouflage
Above Colored drawing of a dazzle ship camouflage plan (c1918), signed W.W. Henderson, now in the collection of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).


At the moment, we know very little about a New England-based artist named W.W. Henderson (dates unknown), who served as an American ship camouflage artist during World War I. He is not to be confused with William Penhallow Henderson (1877-1943), who was also a ship camoufleur (in San Francisco). Information about W.W. Henderson was published in the Lewiston Evening Journal (Lewiston ME) on November 22, 1924, in an article on the School of Fine Arts of the Portland (ME) Society of Art, now known as the Maine College of Art. The portion pertaining to Henderson reads—

In the fall of 1922, W.W. Henderson accepted the position as head of the design department. This department under his guidance has become very strong. Its students receive a thorough training and are fitted to fill positions as professional or commercial illustrators.

Mr. Henderson came to Portland from Newport RI, where he had a studio. He was a pupil of Eric Pape [proprietor of the Eric Pape School of Art, Boston] and is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and also studied with Henry Hunt Clark of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

After completing his studies he was connected as a designer with one of the largest ecclesiastical houses in the country. He has also done much work in interior decorating screens for houses and stores. During the war he was in the camouflage department of the Navy because of his knowledge of color.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

WW1 Josephean Dazzle Painting

Book cover, 1917 (2012)
Above Front cover of book (French text) on World War I, by Claire Garnier and Laurent Le Bon, titled 1917. Centre Pompidou-Metz Editions, 2012. ISBN 978-2359830194.


From DAZZLE PAINTING in the Sydney Morning Herald (September 2, 1919), p. 6—

Its [dazzle painting's] success was instantaneous; before long the personnel of the staff had been many times multiplied, depots established in every part of consequence, and the whole of the mercantile marine which plied in dangerous waters clothed in a Josephean coat of many colors. The object of dazzle painting was briefly to create illusion by applying certain principles of optics in the treatment of solid masses by painting our shadows, for instance, or by painting them in where they do not exist…[At war's end] While everyone rejoices in the removal of the occasion for dazzle painting, there are some who regret the latter's disappearance. It produced an effect resembling a crazy dream from Alice in Wonderland, but it gave a touch of variety and picturesqueness now lacking in shipping. To see a great liner in her camouflage was to be reminded of a very dignified and imposing lady reluctantly masquerading at a fancy  ball in a fantastic futurist costume.