Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Camouflage Artist | Mary (Mittie) Taylor Brush

George de Forest Brush, Mrs. Brush, c1888
Above George de Forest Brush and Mary Taylor Whelpley eloped (to the dismay of her parents) and married on January 11, 1886, on the bride's twentieth birthday. They were both artists, and for the rest of their married lives, he made beautiful portraits of her, most often holding one or more of their nine children (one died in infancy). This (my favorite) is his first portrait of her, dated c1888.

Having given birth to and raised so many children, how could Mary (better known as Mittie Taylor Brush) have the time and energy to do anything else? But she accomplished quite a lot. As is now currently featured in the August 2016 newsstand issue of the Smithsonian's AIR&SPACE Magazine (pp. 28-31), she was one of the country's first female aviators (as was her friend and sometime neighbor, Amelia Earhart), and the inventor of several attempts at airplane camouflage, by reducing its visibility (see her patent drawings below). As we have noted in earlier posts, her husband (a friend of Abbott H. Thayer) and their son (Gerome Brush) were also important contributors to World War I-era camouflage.

US Patent 1619100

Written by aerospace engineer Nick D'Alto, the title of the AIR&SPACE article is "Inventing the Invisible Airplane: When Camouflage Was Fine Art." It's a fascinating article, accurate and richly illustrated (although, oddly, her name is misspelled as "Mitty" throughout), and reveals (to great surprise) that parts of her airplane have survived. Discovered in a New Hampshire barn in 2011, its remains are currently on display at the Eagles Mere Air Museum in Pennsylvania.

US Patent 1293688

For a wealth of memorable stories about the Brushes and their married life, see their daughter's wonderful biography, George de Forest Brush: Recollections of a Joyous Painter (Peterborough NH: William L. Bauhan, 1970). See also Brush family articles and related info in CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009).