Saturday, December 16, 2017

Futurism and Camouflage | A Wood-Turned Effigy

Mussolini Bust (1933), Renato Bertelli
Above In 1933, the Italian Futurist artist Renato Bertelli (1900-1974) produced a series of portrait heads of Benito Mussolini in what is sometimes known as the "aereoceramica style." It is a 360-degree portrait, a "continuous profile," somewhat related in concept to stop motion photography.

In another publication, we pointed out the similarity between Bertelli's Mussolini bust and an earlier illustration by American artist Charles Dana Gibson, published around 1903 (reproduced below), in which a man's head moves back and forth, as he pays attention equally to the beautiful "Gibson girls" on either side.

Charles Dana Gibson (c1903)

More recently, we came across a newspaper article, titled Souvenir Vase That Shows Dutch Queen's Face, accompanied by a drawing of a comparable continuous profile bust (see below). The article was published in the Boston Globe (based on an earlier article in the New York World), July 27, 1899, p. 6—

When Queen Wilhelmina of Holland was crowned the opportunity was supplied for every inventor in her realm to do his best to honor the occasion. A facsimile of one of the cleverest bits of workmanship executed in commemoration of her majesty's coming to the throne has just reached this country.

It is a souvenir effigy turned in wood. The wood was brought from India at enormous cost, and its exquisite shades and markings are well worth the attention of a queen. The design is very clever and the workmanship extraordinarily delicate.

Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina (1899)

A plain beveled bar of wood is the foundation for the wooden portrait. To this background is fastened a piece of carving of a semicylindrical shape, bearing a series of ridges which at first sight seem fantastically devised.

It will be seen, however, that the outer line of the wood, when held in any position, is the counterpart of the young queen's profile. The likeness is so cleverly suggested that Wilhelmina herself is said to have been highly pleased with the fanciful tribute.…


Paul K. Saint-Amour, "Modern Reconnnaissance" in Modernism/Modernity. Vol 2 No 1, 2003, p. 350—

By 1918, young British aviators were being trained to see an avant-garde exhibition unfurling beneath their cockpits: a First World War Air Force photo atlas for new pilots used "FUTURIST country" and "CUBIST country" in its taxonomy of aerial landscapes, alongside more everyday mneumonic headings such as "FRUIT GROWING" and "PATCHWORK QUILTING."

Friday, December 15, 2017

New and Improved Personal Camouflage Methods

Bruce Bairnsfather (c1918)
Above A classic cartoon (c1918) of a dazzle-patterned World War I soldier by British cartoonist and humorist Bruce Bairnsfather.


L.W. LOWER IS A DAB AT COLOR SCHEMES in Daily News (Perth, Western Australia), September 23, 1939, p. 21—

Camouflage classes have been started in the Eastern States [of Australia]. We need them here.

The idea of camouflage is to convince observers that you are not where you are, and not even in any place where you're not.

This will apply mostly to buildings and other structures.

But personal camouflage is another matter.

It will be advisable for citizens to carry a variety of paint pots with them.

For ordinary street wear all that is needed is a pot of paint the same color as the pavement.

At the first sign of danger, the head should be plunged into the paint pot, thus deluding the enemy.

Green paint should be poured over the upper portion of the body when one is in a park.

The addition of a dahlia on top of the head will help.

Motors will find it a simple matter to paint the back of a cow on the roof of cars.

A simpler method is to carry an umbrella which looks from the top like a street man-hole.

All you have to do is to sit in the roadway under the umbrella and look like the entrance to a drain.

To make the thing more realistic you should also feel like the entrance to a drain.

In the meantime I am going to persuade the local publican to allow me to use his cellar as an air-raid shelter, starting from today.

He doesn't seem too willing to collaborate, so far.

Grandson of John Everett Millais as Camoufleur

Millais, Christ in the Carpenter's Shop (c1850)
Above A slide from one of my lectures on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in a university course on the History of Design at the University of Northern Iowa. It is from a series of analyses of the symbolic and compositional systems in the paintings of John Everett Millais, in this case Christ in the Carpenter's Shop (1949-50). He was married to Effie Ruskin Millais (née Effie Gray), whose previous marriage to art critic John Ruskin had been annulled. While returning from London recently, I read a detailed account of this in Suzanne Fagence Cooper's Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais.


ARTISTS WANT TO CAMOUFLAGE in Sunday Times (Perth, Western Australia), January 28, 1940, p. 2—

LONDON—One of the artists whose name has been submitted to the War Office for camouflage work is Mr. Raoul Millais, grandson of Sir John Millais, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, who became president of the Royal Academy.

Mr. Millais has so far specialized in portraits of people and horses.

A member of the Beaufort Hunt, Mr. Millais has painted several horses belonging to his fellow followers of the pack.

His most notable horse subject was Blandford, the sire of several Derby winners.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Norman Wilkinson | Dazzle Plans for US Ships 03

Type 14 Design C British Ship Camouflage (c1917)
Above Proposal for a British "dazzle camouflage" scheme (showing both sides of the same ship), designed by UK artist and camoufleur Norman Wilkinson (note signature). It appears to be one of a number of plans (as many as 180) prepared by Wilkinson and his team of British artists for use on US merchant ships c1917 in advance of the formation of an American Navy Camouflage Section. Labels omitted and image restored.


A CAMOUFLAGE BUREAU in The Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport CT), May 4, 1918, p. 16—

Few of us were aware that the [US] Navy department has such a thing as "a camouflage bureau." Yet there is such a bureau. Recently a British officer slipped over here without heralding and taught the bureau a few tricks.

Commander Norman Wilkinson is the man. He introduced what is called "the dazzle system" of painting vessels. It has been highly successful and our government employs it.

One thing is certain, Commander Wilkinson knows how to dodge even the newspaper fellows. He came into the land and was about to return home before they found it out. Incidentally he made his trip to this country part of his honeymoon journey, getting married just before coming over. Now he goes back to more active service.

It is important to know that the Allied government loses no opportunity to test everything that looks promising for fooling the subsea pirates.

Camouflage They Put On Boats In War Time

Above A World War I-era clothing advertisement as published in The South Bend News-Times (South Bend IN), December 28, 1917, p. 3.


A LETTER FROM LONDON. From Our Own Correspondent. Register (Adelaide, South Australia) October 8, 1923, p. 11—

Post-impressionists have been at work in London again. Wandering down one of the street where the feminine population does its shopping, I was struck—literally—by a most amazing pair of silk stockings. "Jazz," murmured the fair lady: "aren't they a dream." They were—rather a bad one. The post-impressionist had apparently endeavored to portray his impressions of a landscape after a thunderstorm. Verdant green as to foot, the stockings first took on a threatening reddish-yellow glow, deepening into vivid crimson, and back again to sullen gray, all the colorings looking as though they had been thrown on from a distance of at least 5 feet. I suppose they would be all right on some people, but they looked to me like the camouflage they put on boats in war time.


NEW STYLES SHOCK BRITISH NOBILITY in Herald Democrat (Sherman TX), June 2, 1919—

LONDON—"The nude in sculpture suffices," is the comment of the Duchess of Somerset in the Weeky Dispatch on which is called the outrageous dresses now being worn in the British metropolis. Agitation against these extreme styles is growing stronger as some of the newest creations appear.

The Marchioness of Townshead describes the prevailing fashion as "almost immoral in its inadequacy," while Paris reports skirts split to the hips.

London can retaliate with $125 silk hose, to be worn only with clothing that shows them. Lady Hastings criticizes the new styles as "day undress and evening no dress."

Camouflage stockings are now appearing in zigzag and cubist designs to be worn principally with the ultra-short skirts.


GLOOM DISPELLERS. Camouflage. Rockland County Times (Nanuet NY), April 6, 1918—

Officer Ford found a man clothed in pajamas promenading on Sharp Street at two o'clock the other morning.

On being accosted the man was started, and then explained that he was a somnambulist.

"I don't care a %#@## what your religion is," said the chief, "you can't go around wearing them kind o' duds."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Camouflaged Cow Conundrums

Above One of the drawings from a book of spurious mimicry by American physicist Robert Williams Wood, titled How To Tell The Birds From The Flowers and Other Wood-Cuts. New York: Duffield and Co, 1917. Public domain. Here is the accompanying verse—

The cowry seems to be, somehow,
A sort of mouth-piece for the Cow:
A speaking likeness one might say,
Which I've endeavored to portray.


GAMBLER "SMITH" PROFITS BY ARMY CAMOUFLAGE in Los Angeles Herald, May 26, 1919—

ELYRIA, OHIO—"John Smith" had read of the tricks of camouflage employed in "no man's land" in Europe. When police raided a craps game in a local meat market they checked one shy on a count of the prisoners. "Smith" had crawled into a dead cow.


CAMOUFLAGE TOUCH in Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, New South Wales), July 31, 1942, p. 4—

NEW YORK—An American censor has censored a child's drawing of a cow. A three-year-old Cincinnati girl sent the drawing to her father, an army captain, stationed at Panama.

The censor returned the drawing with this note: "It is against military regulations to mail outside the continental limits of the United States drawings of any public buildings."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cubicow | The Camouflaged Cow Puzzle

The Cubicow (1913)
Above The first major introduction of cubism and other varieties of Modern-era visual art to the American public is usually said to have occurred with the Armory Show in 1913. The American press had a field day, especially cartoonists. That same year, the San Francisco Call featured a series of cubist puzzles, one of which is shown above. The top diagram is the puzzle, which came with the challenge of MOO! WHERE IS THAT CUBICOW? The reader had a week to "find" a concealed, cubistic cow. By filling in some of the angled shapes, "a moving likeness will result, cubistic but unmistakable." Voila! In the paper the following week (April 27, page 10) the solution appeared (as shown above).


AT WOODSIDE in Mail (Adelaide, South Australia) July 26, 1941, p. 6—

Preparing for a practical demonstration on camouflage this week, instructors attached to an NCO's school went out and rigged up what is known as "personal camouflage"—a large piece of wirenetting with leaves and twigs attached.

As the class failed to appear in the morning, the instructors went home to lunch and returned later to find that their work had been for nothing—cows nearby being the culprits.

The netting was again camouflaged and the lecture started. Shortly afterwards along came one of the cows seeking more food.

In attempting to drag the leaves off, she got her horn caught in the wire. The school broke off amid roars of laughter as, frightened by one of the instructors, the cow made off with the camouflage netting on her horn and an enraged instructor chasing behind.


A COW OF A TRICK. Home Guards In Action. Cairns Post (Queensland AU), November 6, 1943, p. 2—

Cows set large forces of Home Guardsmen [in the UK] in motion on Sunday.

During maneuvers, a corporal was posted in a field with a carefully camouflaged machine gun, ready to meet the "Enemy."

No enemy appeared, but cows twice ate the camouflage from the machine gun.

The exasperated corporal threw [fire]crackers at them. The cows paid no attention.

But hearing the bang an officer leapt to his phone and reported "distant gunfire."

His message went from company to battalion to area headquarters, which set in motion large forces to deal with the situation. 

No ememy appeared, but the cows ate the camouflage a third time.


HERE AND THERE IN THE SOS. The Stars and Stripes, October 4, 1918, p. 6—

Yankee camouflage artists are getting so blooming clever with their trick foliage and fadeaway effects that they are fooling the animals as well as the Huns…SOS headquarters has just received a claim for 2,000 francs from a French woman for the loss of two cows which, she alleges, died from eating camouflaged grass draped around a pillbox which the Yankees had set up in the back meadow lot of her farm behind the British front.

Friday, December 8, 2017

CAMO MANIA | New Disruptive Patterns in Design

Above Cover of a richly designed pictorial book on fashion (clothing and otherwise) in relation to disruptively-patterned camouflage, widely referred to as "dazzle" these days. Titled CAMO MANIA: New Disruptive Patterns in Design, it has recently been released by the Hong Kong-based publisher Victionary. Designers of all sorts will absolutely love it—as much for the book's design as for its 225 pages of disarmingly colorful patterns. It features hundreds of photographs of innovative work by designers worldwide, with supplemental captions, and several longer informative texts (including our own essay on the recent history of camouflage in relation to Modernist art and design).


Christopher Raeburn (British fashion designer) in Camo Mania (p. 4)—

I first became interested in camouflage not because of its inherent military link but for its playfulness—a subtle game of hide and reveal that takes so many forms. I find it fascinating whilst studying and still to this day that so many kinds of camouflage have been developed by nations around the globe for diverse terrains. One can become bogged down with their various iterations and subtle evolutions but I prefer to celebrate their breadth and immerse myself in their patterns.…

…Camouflage today has become a ubiquitious urban language, covering a plethora of manmade objects with great effect. I've enjoyed charting these evolutions, immersing our world in a subverted counter-camouflage made of rich colors, bold graphics and an ever-changing flow of vibrantly impactful prints.

Norman Wilkinson | Dazzle Plans for US Ships 02

Above Proposal for a British "dazzle camouflage" scheme (showing both sides of the same ship), designed by UK artist and camoufleur Norman Wilkinson (note signature). It appears to be one of a number of plans (as many as 180) prepared by Wilkinson and his team of British artists for use on US merchant ships c1917 in advance of the formation of an American Navy Camouflage Section. Labels omitted and image restored.


MARINE CAMOUFLAGE: Use In Warfare in Kalgoorie Miner (Western Australia) April 1, 1919, p. 6—

On marine camouflage a widespread error exists. Most people suppose that its object is the concealment of ships, and wonder how it effects that purpose. Of course, it is nothing of the sort, but an attempt to break up the form of a ship in such a way as to make it difficult for an attacking U-boat to estimate the course. Though it is impossible to say how many ships have escaped destruction by means of “Dazzle,” strong evidence has been forthcoming of its value, together with grateful tributes from merchant captains. 

The originator of “Dazzle” is Lieutenant Commander Norman Wilkinson, the well-known painter of ships and the sea. In May 1917, he submitted his scheme to the Admiralty. At that time most transports were painted black, than which no color could be more favorable to a submarine on the look out for a prey. Commander Wilkinson’s argument was that if a ship could be broken up into strongly contrasted design her course could not be observed without longer periscope observation, and even then not exactly. This delay and uncertainty might prevent the submarine getting into firing position until the ship had obtained a chance of escape. 

The Admiralty store ship Industry was the first to be painted, and served well as an experiment. “Dazzle” was next tried on 50 transports, from which encouraging reports were received. Afterwards the scheme was extended to the whole of the mercantile marine under the Defense of the Realm Act, which meant that it became compulsory on shipowners to have their ships painted. 

A staff, mostly of artists and architects, was collected and trained at the Royal Academy; this being the start of the “Dazzle” section. This company sent out its members to the various ports, each officer being supplied with a complete set of the plans and design then in hand. From time to time new patterns were evolved, which were sent on to the scattered staff. As soon as a merchantman came into port she was painted under the directions of the “Dazzle” officer, in conjunction with the Director of Shipyard Repairs. 

Wilkinson ship models at Imperial War Museum, London

“Dazzle” did not make its way into the respect of the mercantile marine without a little struggle. In his room at Burlington House, Commander Wilkinson has a demonstration theatre which has brought conviction to some very great naval authorities; or, if they did not need convincing, has proved to them what odd tricks “Dazzle” can play even with experience eye. A model of a camouflaged ship is placed on a board behind a screen. In the screen is a periscope, to which the experimenting look-out man applies his eye. He is asked to indicate the course of the ship he sees on a compass dial by his side. This indication is then compared with the direction in which the ship’s bows are actually pointing; and the discrepancy between the two is found to be wide—as a rule, ludicrously wide. Similar demonstration theatres were set up at the ports for the persuasion of skeptical mariners, whose discomfiture was exceeding when they discovered how far 
“Dazzle” had led astray their wiliest perception. From the Academy school practically every maritime allied nation has been trained. All the American destroyers and patrol boats have been painted with designs supplied by Commander Wilkinson and his assistants. France sent over four officers for lessons, and then started a “Dazzle” section of her own in Paris. Italy was supplied with the British plans and designs. 

At the request of the United States Navy Department and the Shipping Corporation, Commander Wilkinson went to America to advise, with the result that his scheme was adopted. So almost every merchantman at sea in the last 18 months has been “dazzled” on British lines.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Camoufleur Everett Warner at Griswold Museum

We are indebted to Jim Dodge for alerting us to a current exhibition called World War I and the Lyme Art Colony at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme CT. The small exhibition, which includes a selection of artworks by historic Lyme Colony artists who contributed to the war, will continue through January 28, 2018. 

Of particular interest to us are war-related artifacts that pertain to US ship camoufleur Everett Longley Warner, including three aerial cityscape views. A two-page article [above] about the exhibition appears in the December issue of the New England Antiques Journal, which can be viewed in full online at <>.

US ship camoufleur Everett Longley Warner (c1918)

Have You No Shame? | Politics as Camouflage

Above Editorial cartoon with the caption “Will He Get By?” (c1919) by John Harmon Cassel, originally published in the New York Evening World, then reprinted in Cartoons Magazine. Public domain.

In the latter, it appeared opposite a text that read in part as follows: Party in this old sense is today just a carcass that party leaders stand up on its legs and pump hot air into. It is just camouflage (p. 654).



The opposite of progress is congress.


Will Rogers—

With Congress—every time they make a joke, it’s a law. And every time they make a law it’s a joke.


Mark Twain—

Suppose I am a crook, and suppose I am a congressman, but I repeat myself.


Adolf Hitler—

I recognize no moral law in politics. Politics is a game, in which every sort of trick is permissible, and in which the rules are constantly being changed by the players to suit themselves.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Norman Wilkinson | Dazzle Plans for US Ships

Above Proposal for a British "dazzle camouflage" scheme (showing both sides of ship), probably designed by UK artist and camoufleur Norman Wilkinson (some are signed, others not). This appears to be one of a number of plans (as many as 180) prepared by Wilkinson and his team of British artists for use on US merchant ships c1917 in advance of the formation of an American Navy Camouflage Section. Labels omitted and image restored.


Nelson Collins, “Oh, About Average” in The Century Magazine (June 1918), pp. 230-231—

Camouflage at sea has become, I imagine, more diverse, and at the moment more experimental, than camouflage in the lines of artillery at the shore battle front, and we see it both in the making and in the bewildering finished product. The camouflage makes it astonishingly uncertain whether a ship is actually a ship or water and sky and little shifting waves, and if a ship, what her dimensions may be, the point of her actual bow, the curve of her actual stern, where the bridge is, the location of her life boats, which way is she headed. This becomes so even when your eye is on her not far away, and you are on guard against the expected deception and dissolvement. The appearance of the ships makes a sailor feel foolish and scandalized. How would you like to see a lady with whom your fate is mixed paraded for full public view in all the ill-sorted scraps of finery that could be pinned to her? Somebody, however, should invent a chemical compound for ship’s furnaces that will camouflage the smoke as it pours from the funnel tops. Incidentally, it is amazing how coal can be selected to make funnels almost smokeless and what smoke there is a transparent film.

All styles of camouflage are on the highways and byways of the sea. The average seaman in a port is impelled to say, “How do you think I look?” to a ship’s visitor, as much as any lady with her seasonal millinery selection. Some go in for color and some for line. Our own ship’s style is suggestive of the old court jester’s suits, with its party-colored diamond patches. Black-and-white effects are very fetching, however, with the lines caught up into unexpected turns and slashes and bows. The most satisfactory ship I have seen under camouflage was agreeable to the eye because the lines were allowed to follow their natural development, and there was some coherence and congruity in the course they took. It was a pleasure to look at the ship after the thwartings and quick distortions of vision that are more usual. It looked effective, too. Camouflage serves one purpose of screening the ship from vision altogether. This is the less important and the less successful accomplishment, though a cruiser and a destroyer apparently slid past us one of the first days we were out in our new suit and were well abaft the beam before the destroyer, seeming to have rubbed its eyes, slipped over the few miles between to investigate us.

Wilkinson's Ship Models at Imperial War Museum (2017)