Camouflage Press Pack

Document Sample
Camouflage Press Pack Powered By Docstoc
					                           Press Pack

      Introduction                                2

      1. Conceal                                  4

      2. Distort                                  7

      3. Disguise and Deceive                     8

      4. Advertise                                10

For press information contact: Laura McKechan, Communications Manager,
Imperial War Museum London, 020 7416 5311,

Imperial War Museum London
23 March – 18 November 2007

The first major exhibition to explore the story of the development of military
camouflage and its adoption into popular culture from the First World War to the
present day.

In the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever held on the subject,
Camouflage explains how the development of aerial surveillance led to the need to
camouflage guns, equipment and buildings; how artists sought to confuse U-boats by
painting ships in ‘dazzle’ patterns; why camouflage uniforms were adopted world-
wide in place of the colourful uniforms of the 19th century; and how over recent
decades camouflage has entered into popular culture through art and design and in
fashion where its original use has been subverted to make the wearer stand out
rather than disappear.

The first camouflage unit was set up by the French army in 1915. This pioneering
body, which comprised mainly artists, used Cubist techniques to hide equipment and
to make uniforms less visible. Camouflage features some of the very first hand-
painted disruptive pattern uniforms, created by one of these French camoufleurs. It
also reveal how artists involved in camouflage attempted not only to conceal, but also
to deceive. Lifelike dummy heads created by the sculptor Henry Bouchard, which
were popped up above trenches to locate German snipers during the First World
War, are among the items on display.

The work of the French camouflage units at the outbreak of the First World War
prompted the establishment of British camouflage teams who also employed artists.
Some of the most dramatic exhibits from this period featured in the exhibition are the
original dazzle plans and ship models from the Museum’s collections. Dazzle, the
brainchild of marine painter Norman Wilkinson in 1917, was intended to confuse
German U-boat commanders as to the speed and course of a ship. Wilkinson’s
colleague, the Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, oversaw the application of Dazzle
patterning in British shipyards which proved inspiration for some of his later work,
also shown in the exhibition.

In the Second World War camouflage became more sophisticated. Camouflage
explores how scientists including the zoologist Hugh Cott, played a part in developing
techniques of concealment and deception during this period, along with a large
community of creative people including the architect Hugh Casson, advertising
designer Ashley Havinden and Surrealist painter Roland Penrose.

The exhibition also explains how in recent decades camouflage has infiltrated
popular culture. It has been used as a uniform for anti-war protestors and also taken
up by singers and musicians such as The Clash, Public Enemy and Madonna.
Camouflage has continued to inspire artists and designers in the post-war period
and works featured in the exhibition include Andy Warhol’s famous camouflage
prints as well as art by Alain Jacquet and Boetti. Also on display is street style by
Maharishi and couture by John Galliano, Philip Treacy, Jean Paul Gaultier; urban
camouflage designs by Adelle Lutz for David Byrne’s film True Stories; and a ballet
costume created by Gerald Scarfe for the English National Ballet’s production of
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

An accompanying book written by historian Tim Newark, with an introduction by Dr
Jonathan Miller has been published by Thames & Hudson to coincide with the
exhibition opening.

In association with

Adults £7.00, Concessions and Groups £6.00, Children FREE
Book online at
(Groups pre-booking essential on 020 7416 5439 or

Invisibility in everything is the thing we aim at in modern war.
                    Solomon J Solomon RA, British artist and camouflage officer, 1916

Concealment – hiding behind something or changing an object’s colour, outline,
texture or pattern so that it matches its background – is the most common
camouflage technique. It can be used both in defence and attack.

The use of aerial reconnaissance in the First World War revolutionised military
concealment and other camouflage techniques. As troops and equipment could now
be spotted and attacked far behind the front line, new ways of hiding from, or
confusing an enemy had to be found.

Since the eighteenth century, naturalists had identified the camouflage devices which
animals had evolved to survive. By the First World War, some were suggesting how
these techniques might be applied in warfare. Yet, during both world wars, it was
artists rather than naturalists who led the way in military concealment.

Artists developed the technique of ‘disruptive pattern’, the application of irregular
designs to artillery, vehicles, aircraft, buildings and uniforms. Disruptive pattern
worked by breaking up outline and shape, making soldiers and equipment less
recognisable. Netting garnished with foliage and strips of material was also employed
to hide weapons and positions. Both are still widely used today.

From the Second World War onwards, inventions such as radar, infrared, thermal
imaging and satellite reconnaissance have meant that visual concealment is no
longer enough. Scientists and engineers continue to develop solutions such as
Stealth technology which can combat a range of detection systems.

The first camoufleurs and disruptive pattern
French artists Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola and Eugène Corbin are generally
considered the fathers of modern camouflage. In 1914, both were serving in the
same artillery regiment and, unknown to each other, began to experiment with ways
of concealing their artillery and positions. They painted sections of canvas with
irregular, coloured shapes and suspended them over the guns. The patterns broke
up the shape of the guns making it harder to identify from the air. This technique
became known as ‘disruptive pattern’.

In February 1915, following successful demonstrations of these experiments, the
French created the first specialist camouflage section in any army, commanded by
Guirand de Scévola. The section eventually employed approximately 1,200 officers
and other ranks, and about 8,000 civilian women.

Decorating for the army
Guirand de Scévola employed avant-garde and figurative painters, sculptors and
designers to apply disruptive pattern designs to guns and vehicles. Some of these
artists had been associated with cubism. This revolutionary approach to art, which
combined different viewpoints of a subject into a single image, was developed in the
years before the First World War, most notably by Pablo Picasso and Georges
Braque. But, while cubists sought to represent an object, the camoufleurs exploited
its disruptive qualities to distort and conceal it.

British camouflage
The need to conceal military positions and equipment became more urgent as the
Western Front began to stall and stagnate into trench warfare in the winter of 1914.

The British Army was the first to follow the French example and establish a
camouflage section. Known as the Special Works Park RE (Royal Engineers), it was
set up in March 1916 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Wyatt.

The Park’s technical adviser was Solomon J Solomon, a classical artist who opposed
avant-garde art, ‘masses of colour’ and the ‘overstrange’. While he believed in
disruptive patterning, he preferred to use more subdued colours in an ‘imitation of
nature’ and preferred garnished netting to painted canvas. The British camouflage
section would also be heavily involved in devising dummies and decoys for deceptive

The spread of the new art
The value of camouflage was quickly recognised and all major combatant nations
joined the French in establishing their own camouflage units. Each developed their
own designs and practices. The word ‘camouflage’ - from the French verb meaning
to ‘make up for the stage’ - became common currency. From August 1918, the
heads of all Allied camouflage services met at a monthly conference.

The science of concealment
Naturalists had already recorded and described the biological forms of concealment
and disguise. Before and during the two world wars they played an important, but
disputed role in the theory and practice of military concealment and other camouflage

In the late nineteenth century, Edward Poulton described two ways in which animals
had evolved camouflage or ‘protective coloration’. The first was concealment - hiding
or blending into the landscape. The second was mimicry - pretending to be
something else. The American artist and naturalist, Abbott H Thayer, also identified
two important principles of concealment in animals, disruptive coloration and
countershading. Thayer was the first to propose that such devices might be applied
to the concealment of soldiers and weaponry.

The British zoologist Hugh Cott built upon Thayer’s theories and during the Second
World War attempted to apply them through his work as a camouflage officer.

The great increase in the efficiency and range of weaponry in the late nineteenth
century led directly to the introduction of single-shade, drab uniforms. These replaced
the colourful uniforms which had been intended to intimidate, impress and identify.
By the end of the First World War, most armies were fighting in khaki, field grey or
‘horizon blue’. Metal parts which might shine were also either dulled or covered up.
Special garments for snow and tropical environments were also issued.

The concealment of artillery and vehicles, not soldiers, was the focus for camouflage
sections in the First World War. The use of disruptive pattern on uniforms was largely

experimental because the technology to print camouflage designs onto fabric did not
exist until the 1920s.

In 1929, the Italian army made the first printed camouflage fabric. At first it was
made into tent sections and later into uniforms. During the Second World War,
German SS troops were the first to go into battle wearing disruptive pattern uniform.
Other countries, including Britain, created their own designs, but these tended to be
worn only by specialist units such as paratroopers. Camouflage uniform is now
common to armed forces across the world.

Since 1945, hundreds of new camouflage patterns have been designed for the
world’s armies, many of them based upon patterns from the Second World War.
While their primary purpose is still to conceal a soldier in battle, the different
disruptive pattern designs are also a way of marking the wearer’s nationality and
creating ‘esprit de corps’. Many of the often unofficial names used for these patterns
have been given to them by soldiers, collectors and students of camouflage design.

Disruptive pattern uniform helps conceal the wearer from the human eye. But as
early as the Second World War, new detection systems meant that visual
camouflage alone was not always enough to conceal soldiers and weapons in battle.
Infrared, which makes humans appear light against natural foliage, radar, which can
pick up moving objects by reflecting transmitted radiation, and thermal imaging,
which detects sources of heat, all now pose a threat to soldiers and weaponry.
Scientists continue to look at ways of overcoming these technologies.

Irregularity is what the camoufleur should seek at all times…
                                         Eric Sloane, Camouflage Simplified, 1942

One form of disruptive pattern – dazzle – left its subject visible but distorted its
appearance. Devised for ships during the First World War, it was the most public and
visually striking form of the new art of camouflage.

Dazzle seemed inspired by avant-garde art, but it was actually the brainchild of
Norman Wilkinson, a British marine painter and wartime naval lieutenant. Wilkinson
hoped to reduce the terrible losses suffered by British merchant shipping caused by
German submarine attacks. He recognised that an object as large as a ship could not
be hidden. Instead, Wilkinson aimed to make it difficult for a submarine commander
to judge a ship’s shape, size and course through the use of ‘violent colour contrasts’
and bold designs.

A Dazzle Section was created under Wilkinson’s command and dazzle-painting of
British ships began in the summer of 1917. By June 1918, dazzle had been applied
to over 2,300 British merchant vessels and warships. The United States, France, Italy
and Japan also went on to create their own dazzle teams.

Shipping losses declined drastically after dazzle was introduced, but historians agree
that this reduction was mainly due to the adoption of the convoy system at the same
time. Dazzle did, however, boost the morale of allied seamen as well as capture the
imagination of artists and the public alike.

Although dazzle was revived in the Second World War, improved range finders, radar
and aerial reconnaissance reduced its effectiveness.


All warfare is based on deception… When near, make it appear that you are far
away; when far away, that you are near…
                                           Sun Tzu, The Art of War, c. 500 BC

The purpose of dummies, decoys and disguises is to look like something they are
not. They are used to trick enemies into making false assessments of the strength,
position or composition of opposing forces, to divert them and to fool them into
attacking fake targets.

During the First World War, camouflage units concentrated on the production of fake
observation posts and lifelike dummy heads created by the sculptor Henry Bouchard,
which were popped up above trenches dummy soldiers to draw enemy sniper fire.

In the Second World War, dummies and decoys were used in some of the most
ingenious strategic deception schemes ever devised. They were manufactured on an
industrial scale to represent not only troops and equipment, but also airfields,
factories and even towns. They made a major contribution to the 1940-1941 defence
of Britain. In North Africa, they were used in defensive and offensive operations,
including the crucial 1942 Battle of El Alamein.

During the Second World War, visual deception played a crucial part in Allied
operations in North Africa and the Middle East, where the terrain offered limited
opportunities for concealment. Phantom armies of dummy tanks, artillery and men,
supported by dummy railheads and pipelines, convinced Italian and German forces
that British and Commonwealth forces were far stronger than they really were and
deceived them into attacking bogus ‘targets’.

Operation Fortitude
The 1944 D-Day landings were preceded by one of the most complex deception
operations ever mounted. Operation Fortitude fooled German Intelligence into
believing that the main invasion force would land at the Pas de Calais rather than in

Operation Fortitude involved the creation of a phantom army group in Kent and East
Anglia, using dummies and decoys and supported by false radio traffic. Even after
the Normandy landings, German commanders kept back troops to repel landings
from this bogus force. By the time German commanders realised they had been
trick, it was too late to re-deploy their troops to meet the main Allied invasion force.

PLUTO- Pipe Line Under the Ocean – was the acronym for the scheme to supply oil
to Allied forces following the 1944 D-Day landings. One pipeline (Bambi) ran from the
Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, the other (Dumbo) from Dungeness to Boulogne. Captain
Ashley Havinden, a noted graphic designer and camouflage officer, oversaw the
operation to camouflage PLUTO preparations from the Germans. Havinden’s most
ingenious ploy was to install oil pumps in bomb-damaged seafront homes,
restaurants and hotels.

Camouflaging industrial buildings
Planning for the camouflage of key industrial sites began before the Second World
War. Because the Germans knew the location of the most important factories, the
intention was to create camouflage which would confuse the bomber, if only for a few
vital seconds.

Not only were the towers themselves camouflaged, but also the tell-tale, white
vapour plumes they emitted were sometimes darkened with smoke. Landmarks were
also disguised so that bombers could not set a course by them. Texture, in the form
of sawdust, wood chips, slag cinders and gravel was applied to roofs. This helped to
stop smooth surfaces reflecting light at night when German bombers usually attacked

By June 1943, the number of factories on the ‘vital’ list for camouflage had risen from
700, at the outbreak of war, to over 8,000. Buildings near these sites were
camouflaged if they were especially distinctive.

Roland Penrose
Roland Penrose was a surrealist painter. At the beginning of the war, he and a group
of other artists, set up the Industrial Camouflage Research Unit (ICRU). This private
firm sold bespoke designs for structural and painted camouflage to factory owners.
When the ICRU was wound up, Penrose spent most of the war in Britain as a
camouflage instructor to the Home Guard, first as a civilian, then as a captain in the
Royal Engineers. He also experimented with camouflage of soldiers and weapons

Roland Penrose persuaded his lover Lee Miller, the photographer, model and war
correspondent to test out an experimental camouflage cream and used slides of this
to liven up his lectures to the Home Guard

One form of deception, human disguise, the act of changing identity, was not the
responsibility of the camouflage units.

Disguise enables a soldier or agent to stay unnoticed in enemy territory, either to
evade capture or to carry out acts of sabotage. In the Second World War, special
equipment was issued to British airmen to help them look like civilians should they be
shot down. British prisoners of war sometimes improvised ingenious disguises before
escaping. No detail was overlooked in creating convincing new identities for special
agents dropped over occupied territory. Their appearance, identity papers, as well as
language skills and customs had to be absolutely convincing if they were to operate


There is a certain irony in the idea of using this [camouflage] print, originally
designed to conceal male soldiers from the enemy, for the totally opposite
purpose of adorning women’s bodies in the objective of enhancing their
attractiveness to the opposite sex.
                                               John Galliano, fashion designer, 2002

Although disruptive pattern camouflage has remained a symbol of military identity, it
has also become a recurring motif in popular culture, particularly fashion and art. Its
adoption by the civilian world has given disruptive pattern a new purpose. It is now
worn and used by millions not to blend in, but to stand out.

Artists and designers began experimenting with the concepts of camouflage and
disruptive pattern from the early 1960s. Some were attracted by the striking patterns
while others wanted to subvert camouflage’s militarist connotations.

From the late 1960s, US Vietnam veterans demonstrating against the war began to
wear their uniforms to reinforce their political message. At the same time, the
proliferation of disruptive pattern uniforms around the world fuelled a large army
surplus market. For the first time, camouflage was available to everyone. People
wore it for many different reasons. It was cheap, hardwearing and still had the power
to surprise when used in a non-military setting. In youth culture it became a symbol of
group identity and was worn to make anti-establishment or anti-fashion statements.

Fashion designers began to embrace camouflage on a large scale from the 1990s.
They created their own patterns and garments for the catwalk. The high street picked
up on this trend and mass-produced camouflage designs on everything from bikinis
to bedspreads. As camouflage clothing is now so widespread it has lost much of its
confrontational edge and is as familiar a pattern as checks and tartan.

Designers of sportswear and street clothing such as Stüssy, A Bathing Ape, Stone
Island, Carhartt and Maharishi have particularly embraced disruptive pattern. They
have manipulated existing patterns and created their own demilitarised camouflages
incorporating recognisable objects.

Camouflage has also become a fashion staple on the catwalk and in the high street.
In this context is now as much a part of women’s fashion as men’s and has become
increasingly distanced from its military origins.


Shared By: