| ||If you have any feedback on how we can make our new website better please do contact us. We would like to hear from you.|| |
The two photos (immediately below) were taken by Steven Booth on the North Bank of the River Thames in London, England, in August 2014. Artist, Tobias Rehberger, has created a contemporary dazzle design for HMS President (1918) as part of 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. This temporary artwork takes as its starting point a style of optical distortion used extensively in the First World War, called Dazzle painting.
Devised by British Artist Norman Wilkinson, and supervised by vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, the camouflage technique incorporated bold shapes and strong contrasts, with an aim to confuse rather than conceal. HMS President (1918) is one of three surviving WW1 warships. It was "dazzled" on its launch in 1918 under its original name HMS Saxifrage.
Norman Wilkinsonís dazzle designs have been
compared to what in 1917 was considered a revolutionary movement in
modern art, called cubism.
While there is an overlap in appearance between
dazzle and cubist art, Wilkinson himself was anything but a modernist.
He was a celebrated marine painter and talented poster artist.
He was commissioned to create paintings for the
elegant smoking rooms on board the Titanic and the Olympic. Wilkinson
was passionate about ships and the sea. It inspired him to travel from
Europe, to the US, Bahamas and Brazil. He also produced beautiful landscape art. His work
was used by The London & North Western Railway and London Midland
& Scottish Railway to advertise their routes.
Wilkinsonís art now takes pride of place in
collections including the National Maritime Museum, Royal Academy of
Arts and the Royal Society of British Artists.
Born in 1878, he studied at Portsmouth and Southsea
School of Art, and found early work selling his drawings to newspapers.
He built a career at the Illustrated London News before signing-up for
the Navy after the outbreak of war in 1915.
On submarine patrol he faced the dangers of
Gallipoli campaign, then returned to Britain in 1917 to serve on a
minesweeping ship. It was here that his idea for dazzle was born.
In 1917 people were astounded by harbours
full of colourful ships. Examples of their striking colours can be seen on hundreds of model
ships (collection of the Imperial War Museum, London)
These were made by the Dazzle Section at the Royal
Academy of Arts, at Burlington House in London. Scale models were
painted and used to test dazzle designs. They were placed on a rotating
turntable and viewed through a periscope. This allowed Wilkinsonís team to see how dazzle
distorted a shipís form as if it were travelling in different
directions. Wilkinson believed that using strong contrasts, with light
and dark greys, blues and greens, was most effective.
Dazzle ships in dry dock, Liverpool 1919, painting by Norman Wilkinson
(National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)
Wilkinson appointed dock officers at ports around
Britain. They supervised the painting of ships from the finished
designs. One dock officer was the artist Edward Wadsworth. He was a
founder of Vorticism - a British art movement that grew out of Cubism.
The Admiralty experimented with various camouflage
ideas during WW1. They had considered similar proposals by US artist
Abbot H Thayer and the Scottish zoologist John Graham Kerr. However, it was Wilkinsonís scheme that won them
over. After the war the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors awarded
him £2000 and recognised him as the creator of dazzle.
EXAMPLES OF WW1 DAZZLE SHIPS (20 IMAGES)
SS OSTERLEY (above)
HMS PEGASUS (above)
HMS ARGUS (above)
HMS KILLBRIDE (above)
HMS FURIOUS (above)
HMS POLYANTHUS (above)
HMS ROCKSAND (above)
HMS UNDERWING (above)
RSS OLYMPIC (above)
SS ALLOWAY (above)
SS EMPRESS OF RUSSIA (above)
SS MAURETANIA (above)
SS WEST APAUM (above)
SS WEST MAHOMET (above)
USS K-5 SUBMARINE (above)
USS LEVIATHAN (above)
USS NEBRASKA (above)
USS ORIZABA (above)
USS SHAWMUT (above)
USS WILHELMINA (above)