Sunday, February 28, 2016

Camouflage Artist | John Vassos

Cover of John Vassos biography (2016)
We are awaiting the release of the first book-length biography of the American book artist, designer, and camouflage artist John Vassos (1898-1985). Written by Danielle Shapiro, the biography is titled John Vassos: Industrial Design for Modern Life, and is slated for release in late March 2016 (see cover above).

If people have heard of Vassos, it is usually because of his innovative Art Deco-era graphic novels, of which the best known title is Phobia, which was initially published in 1931, then reprinted by Dover Publications in 2009, the cover of which is shown below.

Cover of Dover edition of Phobia (2009)

On the other hand, they may also know about his prolific contributions to American industrial design, including TV cabinets and various other devices, while a corporate designer at the RCA Corporation. His design for a RCA Victor Special Model K, Portable Electric Phonograph (c1935) is reproduced below.

It is generally less well-known that he served with the US Army Air Corps during World War II as a camouflage consultant. He also worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA in connection with efforts to support the underground resistance in Greece. In the process, he is said to have secretly parachuted into Greek territory on two occasions.

John Vassos, RCA phonograph design (c1936)