Friday, December 28, 2018

Charles Pears | Dazzle Camouflage Magazine Cover

Magazine Cover (1918)
The Independent was a prominent, influential American magazine that began in New York in 1848 and continued publication until 1928. It was especially contributive to the struggle to end slavery and the fight for women's rights.

Reproduced above is the restored cover of an issue of the magazine dated October 12, 1918. The image on the cover is a detail of a painting of a dazzle-camouflaged ship by British artist and illustrator Charles Pears (1873-1958). Titled A Dazzled Merchantman, the original painting is now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Newly Discovered Photo | Women Paint USS Recruit

Having blog posted, exhibited and written about the dazzle-painting of the USS Recruit by a crew from the Women's Camouflage Corps in Union Square in New York (1918), we were recently delighted to find yet another news photograph of that process taking place. It's reproduced above, in a cropped, carefully restored version.


Update on January 9, 2019: Attached to the back of this photograph, dated 7/12/18, is the following title and caption from Underwood and Underwood—
WOMEN CAMOUFLAGE LAND BATTLESHIP "RECRUIT" IN UNION SQUARE Dressed in their neat-fitting khaki uniforms, these women camoufleurs of the Women's National Service League are disguising the land battleship Recruit in Union Square, New York. They trained in Van Cortlandt Park on smaller objects, like rock and stumps, but this was the first big stunt they tackled. Henry Reuterdahl, the famous marine artist, was present with suggestions. The next best thing that the government could do would be to conscript all our futurist designers, poster-impressionists [sic], and artists of the neo-neo school and send them to work camouflaging vessels.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Chicago Skyline Camouflage | Merchandise Mart

Camouflaged Merchandise Mart (c1943), Chicago
In its May 23, 1943 issue, The Milwaukee Sentinel included an illustrated article on the “Newest Tricks of Camouflage” (p. 41). Among the featured topics was the application of disruptive patterns to buildings in urban centers like Chicago, to make it more difficult for enemy aircraft to recognize conspicuous landmarks. The article included the above image, a “doctored” aerial photograph of that city’s Merchanise Mart (which had been at one time the world’s largest building) to show the effects of disruption.

The caption with the photograph reads—

The Merchandise Mart in Chicago as it would appear after camouflaging by the Army’s hocus pocus artists. Through a Nazi’s bombsight the single large object would seem a number of smaller innocuous ones—all by the ingenious use of paint.

In the accompanying article, the following paragraph also appears—

If and when Nazis fly over an American city, say Chicago, our camouflage artists are ready for them, along with our anti-aircraft crews. Every large building, such as the Merchanise Mart, will be so camouflaged that even with binoculars from on high the Nazis will see only a crazy quilt confusion that will give their bombardiers trouble in distinguishing steel and concrete from mere razzle-dazzle.

Experiments in building camouflage had been used earlier in World War I, as seen in the camouflage pattern applied to the Victoria Hospital in the UK (shown below). The WWII proposal to camouflage the Merchandise Mart may have originated with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (founder and head of the New Bauhaus in Chicago) and Hungarian designer György Kepes (who taught camouflage at the same school). In 1969, Moholy’s widow, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, recalled the following in her book, Moholy Nagy: Experiment in Totality (pp. 183-184)—

On December 19, 1942, Moholy was appointed to the Mayor’s personal staff in charge of camouflage activites in the Chicago area.…[in the course of which] he pondered how to conceal the vastness of Lake Michigan with a simulated shore line and floating islands…As head of the Camouflage Workshop, György Kepes produced a wider range of new techniques and concepts. When they were displayed for the first time in 1943, they aroused wide attention.

Camouflaged Victoria Hospital (c1918)

Monday, December 24, 2018

Painted Battlefield Helmets during World War One

Above Allied soldier during WWI with a disruptively-painted helmet.


Anon, IN ART CIRCLES, in Long Beach Independent (long Beach CA), March 27, 1949, p. 10—

[A retired oil-field worker turned artist, Carl R. Walline’s] interest in painting dates back to the first World War, when he drummed up a lively business on a returning troop ship painting camouflage on the helmets of soldiers at a dollar a helmet.

With this leftover camouflage paint he did his first landscape.


Anon, SOLDIERS HUNT WAR TROPHIES, Camouflaged Helmet the Favorite But Another German Souvenir Will Do, COMING HOME LOADED DOWN, in Elwood Call Leader (Elwood IN), December 30, 1918, p. 1—

With the American Troops, Dec. 26—Pretty nearly every doughboy at the front has become a boche souvenir hunter and has annexed a quantity of excess baggage that in some cases is appalling.

The first impulse of a German soldier who decided to retreat or to surrender seemed to be to get rid of his steel helmet, beautifully or weirdly camouflaged. In any column of prisoners to be seen on any road behind the American lines not over five in any 100 are still wearing their helmets. All have donned the soft slouch cap that so detracts from their soldierly appearance.

Every Fighter Loaded Down
The helmets were dropped, thrown away in haste, and all but cluttered up the battlefield. Nearly every American soldier who has been fighting at the front either has a German helmet by now or has sent one home. For under a new rule by general headquarters it is now possible to paste a home address on a German helmet, drop the headgear into the mail box and send it to mother, sister or sweetheart. Just how many have gone home, ostensibly as the personal booty of the sender, it would be hard to say.

Many of the helmets are interesting to say the least. Many boche soldiers have in their idle hours painted and camouflaged their headpieces until they have a weirdly odd appearance. The German helmets have vastly more surface space than the American, the British or the French. It has protection for the ears and neck in the shape of a rim or extension, so that quite a little picture can be drawn on it.

Disruptively-patterned German helmet


Most Popular Camouflage
The most popular camouflage is a series of two-inch stripes that meet at the top of the helmet and extend like the ribs of a fan outward and downward to the edges of the hat. In other cases the entire surface space is painted into squares of yellow, green and gray, or in all the colors of the rainbow. The composite effect is startling. These are the most coveted of all souvenir helmets, and the doughbory who has not the opportunity of finding one on the battlefield gladly gives a sack of tobacco for one.

Shoulder straps make another interesting and portable souvenir though they are also a distinct military value because they help to identify the units that have been opposed to the Americans. Yet there are enough for this purpose and to spare, and they are eagerly sought by the solider who does not care to be burdened with a heavy helmet in addition to his own.


Anon, ORIZABA BRINGS LEATHERNECKS IN, Giant Troopship Has On Board 11th Regiment of Devil Dogs, in The Daily Press (Newport News VA), August 7, 1919, p. 3—

The transport Orizaba landed at the naval base yesterday with one of the largest groups of soldiers she has ever carried, when she brought home the 11th regiment of Marines. More than 4,000 men were aboard the transport…

Nearly all the Marines had their helmets painted with all the colors of the rainbow. The men said that a camouflage artist aboard was responsible for the tortoise-shell effects given to the tin hats.…

USS Orizaba in dazzle camouflage scheme

Architect J. André Smith and WWI Camouflage

On-site colored drawing by J. André Smith (1918)
With luck, however belated, we have just discovered an on-going exhibition about J. André Smith and the Art of Camouflage. It is currently on view at the Maitland Art Center, a museum that Smith himself established (as the Research Studio) in 1937 in Maitland FL. Unfortunately, the exhibit will only continue through January 6, 2019. For more information, see this online information page. Above is a wonderful drawing Smith made of dazzle-camouflaged ships at the port of Saint-Nazaire in France, dated July 1918.

J. André Smith (left) and Walter Jack Duncan (c1918)

Earlier, we put up a post about J[ules] André Smith, an architect and printmaker who was a major contributor to US Army camouflage in World War I, until he was reassigned as an American war artist. He has a biographical article on Wikipedia, but the photograph accompanying it is a portrait of fellow war artist Walter Jack Duncan. There is also an article about Duncan on Wikipedia, but a portrait of Smith is mistakenly shown. The corrected heads are shown above, while posted below is a print by Duncan titled "Newly Arrived Troops Debarking at Brest," dated July 22, 1918. It also shows a camouflaged ship. Public domain images courtesy NARA.

Print by Walter Jack Duncan (1918)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Phillip Little | Boston Common Camouflage

Philip Little (1918), Camouflaged Liberty Loan Building, Boston Common
In earlier posts, we reported on the World War I camouflage experiments of Salem artist Philip Little, including a colorful dazzle pattern applied to the Liberty Loan Headquarters building on the Boston Common in 1918. He called it "reverse camouflage" because its primary function was neither confusion nor concealment, but rather to drum up publicity for a series of fund-raising meetings for the Liberty Loan campaign. We've published news articles and black and white photographs of Little's building design here and here, but we've now just found a clearer one, as shown above.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Anne Lemanski Animal Posters Now Available Online

Online Selection of Posters
In recent weeks, we've been posting on this blog a selection of posters designed this semester by graphic design students at the University of Northern Iowa. This is the last post in that series. Instead, we've now designed a website (see screen grab above) which showcases about forty of the final posters, amounting to about a half of all the posters the students designed. Twenty-five of the actual printed posters will continue to be on exhibit through December 31, 2018, at the interpretive building at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls IA. Coincident with my retirement after 46 years of university teaching, it was a pleasurable way to go out. More>>>