Art and Camouflage: An Annotated Bibliography
The military use of camouflage is in no way a modern invention; it is as old as human history). But its use increased dramatically during World War I in response to two developments: (1) the combined adoption of airplanes, photography and wireless telegraphy for aerial observation in the long-range bombardment of targets; and (2) the success of German submarines (called U-boats) in attacking ships with torpedoes, at the height of which (in April 1917) fifty-five British ships were destroyed in a single week.
In terms of aerial observation, it was French artists serving in the front lines who first devised methods of "fooling the eye" of airborne observers, and, no less important (but with different requirements), the eye of the aerial camera too. As a result, the first official camouflage unit in history was established in 1915 by the French Army, with a painter named Lucien Victor Guirand de Scevola as its commanding officer. Soon after, comparable units were set up by the British and American armies and, to lesser extent, by the Germans, Italians, and Russians. These units were largely made up of camoufleurs (as they were called) who as civilians had worked in art-related professions, as painters, illustrators, designers, sculptors, architects, stage designers and so on.
As for the threat of the U-boat, it was British artist Norman Wilkinson who contended in 1917 that a ship cannot be reliably hidden, and that naval camouflage is vastly different from field camouflage. The problem, he concluded, was not to make a ship invisible, but to prevent it from being struck. This was possible because the accurate aim of torpedoes required that the U-boat commander determine (from a considerable distance and often under adverse viewing conditions) the speed, size and course of the targeted ship. Calculating all of this through a periscope while submerged, the U-boat gunner had to "lead the target"—he had to aim not at the ship but at where the ship would be by the time the torpedo had traveled that far. Wilkinson recommended that ships' surfaces should be painted in high contrast, erratic, asymmetric shapes, by a method he referred to as dazzle painting or dazzle camouflage. This approach was soon after adopted by the US, France and other countries, with the result that hundreds of artists were used to devise the dazzle designs (applied to small models and tested) or to supervise the painting of the actual ships.
These practices were reinstated during World War II, with the result that, during both World Wars, hundreds (probably thousands) of art-, design- and architecture-related personnel were assigned to function as camouflage experts, instructors or facilitators, whether military or civilian. Among these were such well-known artists as Jean-Louis Forain, Jacques Villon, Franz Marc, Oskar Schlemmer, Edward Wadsworth, William Stanley Hayter, Arshile Gorky, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Jon Gnagy and Ellsworth Kelly. The bibliography that follows is an extensive yet incomplete listing of books, handbooks, exhibition catalogs, articles and several films that offer information on the contributions of artists to modern studies of camouflage, both biological and military. Far more extensive bibliographies, without annotations, can be found in R.R. Behrens, False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (Behrens 2002), and R.R. Behrens, Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Design (Behrens 2009). By far, the largest, most current bibliography on the subject is in R.R. Behrens, ed., Ship Shape: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook (2012). Related sources can also be found at www.bobolinkbooks.com/Camoupedia/DazzleCamouflage.html.
Arnheim, R. Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954). An important, influential book on the perceptual underpinnings of art (and, by implication, camouflage) by a Harvard psychologist who had been a student of the original gestalt psychologists.
Atterbury, P. "Dazzle Painting in the First World War," in Antique Collector 46 (1975), pp. 25-29. An account of how artists contributed to dazzle ship camouflage during World War I, enhanced by vintage photographs.
Banta, M. Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987). A fascinating overview of certain aspects of modern culture (including camouflage) in relation to concepts of gender. Also see Nemerov (1997).
Barcott, B. "Invisible, Inc." in The Atlantic (July/August 2011), pp. 81-84. An article on the research of Guy Cramer, a Canadian inventor of thousands of camouflage patterns for military field uniforms.
Barkas, G. The Camouflage Story (London: Cassell and Company, 1952). A firsthand account of World War II British field camouflage in North Africa, as recalled by a prominent film producer and camouflage officer.
Behrens, R.R. Art and Camouflage: Concealment and Deception in Nature, Art and War (Cedar Falls, IA: North American Review / University of Northern Iowa, 1981). An early if wildly inaccurate book about the inherent affinity of art and camouflage, and the participation of artists in military camouflage in both World Wars.
Behrens, R.R. "The Art of Dazzle Painting," in Defence Analysis 3, No. 3 (1987), pp. 233-243. Disruptive camouflage during World Wars I and II, considered in relation to gestalt perceptual psychology, and developments in modern art, particularly cubism.
Behrens, R.R. "The Theories of Abbott H. Thayer: Father of Camouflage," in Leonardo 21, No. 3 (1988), pp. 291-296. An account of the involvement of an important American painter in biological and military camouflage.
Behrens, R.R. "Blend and Dazzle: The Art of Camouflage," in Print 45, No. 1 (January/February 1991), pp. 92-98ff. An overview of the participation of artists and designers in the development of modern military camouflage, with numerous full-color illustrations.
Behrens, R.R. "Among the Dazzle Painters: Sherry Fry and the Invention of American Camouflage," in Tractor: Iowa Arts and Culture 4, No. 4 (Fall 1996a), pp. 26-28. A biographical article on the life and work of Sherry Edmundson Fry, an Iowa-born sculptor who founded (with artist Barry Faulkner) the New York Camouflage Society in anticipation of the US entry into World War I. Also see Faulkner (1973).
Behrens, R.R. "Camouflage," in Jane Turner, ed., The Dictionary of Art (London and New York: Grove Dictionaries, 1996b). An encyclopedia entry on the historic relationship between art and camouflage.
Behrens, R.R. "On Max Wertheimer and Pablo Picasso: Gestalt Theory, Cubism and Camouflage" in Gestalt Theory 20, No. 2 (June 1998), pp. 111-118. The coincidental emergence of gestalt perceptual psychology (founded by Wertheimer) and cubism (co-founded by Picasso), considered in relation to World War I camouflage.
Behrens, R.R. "The Role of Artists in Ship Camouflage During World War I" in Leonardo 32, No. 1 (1999), pp. 53-59. A detailed report on the involvement of British and American artists in the development of military and merchant ship camouflage, especially "dazzle painting," during both World Wars.
Behrens, R.R. "Revisiting Gottschaldt: Embedded Figures in Art, Architecture and Design" in Gestalt Theory 22, No. 2 (June 2000), pp. 97-106. A discussion of experiments with embedded figures (sometimes called "camouflaged figures") in psychology, as compared to the use of comparable forms in art, architecture, and design.
Behrens, R.R. False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage (Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2002). An account of how the strategies used to conceal animals in nature and military equipment and personnel in wartime depend on the same "unit forming factors" that artists, architects, and designers make use of daily in the design of typefaces, publications, buildings, furniture, and so on.
Behrens, R.R. "Architecture, Art and Camouflage" in Lotus International Issue 126 (2005), pp. 74-83. An illustrated essay on the participation of architects in military and civilian camouflage during both World Wars.
Behrens, R.R. "Revisiting Abbott Thayer: Non-scientific Reflections About Camouflage in Art, War and Zoology" in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364, No. 1516 (February 27, 2009), pp. 497-520). An updated consideration of the process by which American artist Abbott H. Thayer may have realized the survival function of countershading, background matching, disruptive coloration and other aspects of biological camouflage. A revised, expanded version of this essay, titled "Nature's Artistry: Abbott H. Thayer's Assertions About Camouflage in Art, War and Zoology," was more recently included in Stevens and Merilaita, eds. (2011), pp. 87-100.
Behrens, R.R. "Camouflage" in Bruce Goldstein, ed., Encyclopedia of Perception. (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2009). An encyclopedia article on camouflage in relation to human perception.
Behrens, R.R. Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2009). An encyclopedic survey, organized alphabetically, of camouflage-related people, events and ideas since the close of the 19th century. Includes scores of historic images.
Behrens, R.R. "Camouflage" in Joan Marter, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). An encyclopedia article on the role of American artists in the development of modern camouflage.
Behrens, R.R. "Color and Camouflage" in [ark] The StoJournal for Architects [Germany]. No 4 (2010), pp. 52-55. A comparison of the functions of color in camouflage and architecture, as well as the deliberate use of disruptive colored shapes to weaken the rigid distinctions between figure and ground (or structure and setting).
Behrens, R.R., ed. Ship Shape: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook. (Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, 2012). An anthology of writings about ship camouflage during World War I, including 29 essays, 275 illustrations, and a 40-page bibliography.
Bement, A. "Camouflage," in Teachers College Record 18 No 5 (1917), pp. 458-462. An overview of the developments in military camouflage (both ground and naval) as of 1917. Its content is duplicated in Bement's later articles on the same subject, all of which are stronger. He taught Art Education at the Columbia University Teachers College, and was an important influence on American painter Georgia O'Keeffe.
Bement, A. "The Report of the U-16" in St. Nicholas XLVI (November 1918-April 1919), pp. 495-498. A vivid and largely persuasive account of the extent to which dazzle ship camouflage was effective in subverting U-boats attacks. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Bement, A. "Principles Underlying Ship Camouflage" in International Marine Engineering. (February 1919), pp. 90-93. This is an extensive discussion of the optical principles that marine camoufleurs made use of in designing "course deception" schemes (called "dazzle camouflage") during World War I. Well-illustrated with various diagrams. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Bement, A. "'Camouflage' for Fat Figures and Faulty Faces" in The Washington Times (June 15, 1919), American Weekly Section, p. 4. Repeatedly, throughout World War I, the use of cosmetics by women was compared to camouflage, as were the "illusions" of shapeliness that could be achieved through clothing design. This is an overview of the subject, complete with diagrams. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Berry, H. Make the Kaiser Dance (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978). The autobiography of an American artist and writer, who was a US Army camoufleur during World War I.
Bittinger, C. "Naval Camouflage" in US Naval Institute Proceedings (1940), pp. 1394-1398. An American artist, he was an important contributor to US naval camouflage in both World Wars. This is his account of the work that was accomplished in World War I.
Blechman, H., ed. DPM [Disruptive Pattern Material]: An Encyclopedia of Camouflage (London: DPM, 2004). Surely, there is no more ambitious collection of photographs, illustrations and written information on camouflage and culture. Edited and published by the founder and proprietor of London-based Maharishi, an innovative clothing firm.
Blodgett, L.S. Ship Camouflage. Thesis. (Cambridge MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1919). It is often said that the effectiveness of World War I dazzle ship camouflage was never scientifically tested. This little-known thesis documents and illustrates postwar "laboratory experiments" at MIT that suggest that it almost certainly worked.
Bowditch, N.D. George de Forest Brush: Recollections of a Joyous Painter (Peterborough, NH: William L. Bauhan, 1970). A biography, written by his daughter, of a prominent 19th-century American painter who collaborated with Abbott H. Thayer on early camouflage experiments, and whose wife (Mittie Taylor Brush) and son (Gerome Brush) also contributed to camouflage.
Boynton, M.F. "Abbott Thayer and Natural History," in Osiris 10 (1952), pp. 542-555. The author was the daughter of American naturalist and bird illustrator Louis Agassiz Fuertes, who had studied with Abbott Thayer. This is her description of the development and significance of Thayer's contributions to the subject. See also White (1951).
Breckenridge, R.P. Modern Camouflage: The New Science of Protective Concealment (New York: Little and Ives, 1942). The author was a major in the US Corps of Engineers and a descendant of John C. Breckenridge, Secretary of War for the Confederacy in the Civil War. This is a comprehensive look at field camouflage (there is little or no information about naval camouflage), illustrated by US government drawings and photographs. It even has a chapter on constructing models. Compare with Chesney (1943).
Camouflage Patterns: 100 Royalty-Free EPS and JPEG Files (Tokyo: Design EXchange Company, 2002). A volume of full-color camouflage patterns, each of which is printed full-page, accompanied by a CD-ROM with digital files of the same patterns for both Macintosh and Windows.
Chesney, C.H.R. The Art of Camouflage (New York: Studio Publications, 1943). The opening four chapters (regarding natural and civilian camouflage) were written by J. Huddleston, while the rest of the book is by Chesney, a British military officer. He is skeptical of the claims that dazzle ship camouflage is of any value, and he also has doubts about the use of artists as camoufleurs. The British edition was published in 1941, so it predates that of Breckenridge (1942).
Clark, W.B. Philadelphia in the World War 1914-1919. (NY: Philadelphia War History Committee, 1922) pp. 318-322. During World War I, nearly all American ship camouflage (both military and merchant) was designed by US Navy camoufleurs. However, stationed around the country at about a dozen harbors were teams of civilian artists, who were assigned to painting the ships. This is a detailed, factual account of the work of one of those teams, in the Delaware River District. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Cordier, M. "Louis Guingot (1864-1948)," in Le Pays Lorrain 61, No. 3 (1980), pp. 173-174. A brief biographical article on a French painter who was an early contributor to the development of camouflage fabric during World War I.
Cork, R. A Bitter Truth: Avant-Garde Art and the Great War. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (1994). References to World War I camouflage abound in this ambitious study of the portrayal of trench warfare by soldiers who tend to be thought of today as avant-garde artists.
Cornebise, A.E. Art From the Trenches: America's Uniformed Artists in World War I. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University (1991). An account of the designation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of eight men as official war artists during World War I, some of whom were camoufleurs. See also Krass (2007).
Cornebise, A.E., ed. War Diary of a Combat Artist [Harry E. Townsend]. Niwat, Colorado: University Press of Colorado (1991). There are numerous eyewitness observations of World War I camouflage in this fascinating wartime journal of an official American war artist, illustrated throughout by his on-site battlefield drawings.
Cott, H.B. "Camouflage in Nature and War," in Royal Engineers Journal, pp. 501-517 (December 1938). A comparison of biological and military camouflage by a British zoologist who was also a camouflage instructor during World War II.
Cott, H.B. Adaptive Coloration in Nature (London: Methuen, 1940). A classic, exhaustively detailed overview of biological camouflage, illustrated with exquisite pen-and-ink drawings by the author, a zoologist and camoufleur. See also Whyte (1951).
Coutin, C. "Les Artistes de La Guerre: Le Camouflage Pendant La Premiere Guerre Mondiale" (Parts 1-3) in Historiens-Geographes. Nos 321 and 322 (December 1988 and March-April 1999). An account of the camouflage activities of French artists during World War I, including an extensive list of those who served as camoufleurs.
Covert, C.T. "Art at War: Dazzle Camouflage" in Art Documentation 26, No. 2 (2007), pp. 50-56. Article on the documenting and preserving a collection of World War I dazzle ship diagrams and photographs at the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Cruickshank, C. Deception in World War II (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1979). A review of various types of military deception, concealment, and misinformation employed during World War II, including camouflage.
Delouche, D. "Cubisme et Camouflage," in Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 43, No. 171 (1993), pp. 123-137. Theoretical and historical aspects of the connection between cubism and camouflage.
Donald, D., and J.E. Olsén, "Art and the 'Entangled Bank': Color and Beauty out of the 'War of Nature'" in Donald, D., and J. Munro, eds., Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts. Fitzwilliam Museum, Yale Center for British Art and Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 100-117. A well-written, exquisitely illustrated discussion of the "entanglement" in natural forms of figure and background (or object and setting), as found in the writings of Darwin, as well as in the artworks of Bruno Liljefors and Abbott H. Thayer.
Earling, A.T. (1919), "Ships That Pass in the Daytime" in Illustrated World. 31 (1919), pp. 202-215. This is an overview of World War I camouflage in relation to protective coloration in nature, with particular attention to the work of Abbott H. Thayer. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Elias, A. "The Organization of Camouflage in Australia in the Second World War" in Journal of the Australian War Memorial (April 2003), pp. 23-30. An account of the activities of Australian artists, who, like their European and American counterparts, founded a wartime camouflage corps.
Elias, A. "William Dakin on Camouflage in Nature and War" in Journal of Australian Studies 23, No 2 (June 2008), pp.251-263. Dakin was a British-born zoologist who immigrated to Australia, and served as a camoufleur. This is a study of his concurrent and rather odd interests in sex hygiene, camouflage and eugenics.
Elias A. Camouflage Australia: Art, Nature, Science and War. Australia: Sydney University Press, 2011. To date, this is the most extensive account of Australian camouflage efforts during World War II, with newly found information about the contributions of zoologists, artists and others.
Embury II, A. "Architects and the Camouflage Service," in Architectural Forum 27 (November 1917), pp. 137-138. The chief value of this report on the wartime involvement of American architects is its roster of those who were serving in World War I as camoufleurs, Embury among them.
Faulkner, B. Sketches From An Artist's Life (Dublin, NH: William L. Bauhan, 1973). The engaging autobiography of American painter Barry Faulkner, a cousin of Abbott H. Thayer, and co-founder with Sherry Edmundson Fry of the New York Camouflage Society, in advance of America's entry into World War I. Also see Behrens (1996a).
Gardner, J. The ARTful Designer: Ideas off the Drawing Board (London: Lavis, 1993). The somewhat irreverent memoirs of a British designer who served as a camoufleur in World War II.
Goodden, H. Camouflage and Art: Design for Deception in World War 2 (London: Unicorn Press, 2007). The author, who teaches at the Royal College of Art, is the daughter of camoufleur Robert Goodden. Richly illustrated and wonderfully readable, this book tells the story of World War II British camouflage, with an emphasis on artists who were affiliated with that college.
Goossen, E.C. Ellsworth Kelly (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973). Kelly is a well-known American painter, who served in World War II as a camoufleur in a secret combat unit called "the Ghost Army." The effect of that experience on the artist's subsequent work is considered in a section called "Kelly and Camouflage."
Gregory, R.L. and E.H. Gombrich, eds. Illusion in Nature and Art (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973). An anthology of illustrated articles on art, perception, and biological form, including a valuable article on "Natural Deception" by H.E. Hinton.
Harelik, E., and F. Spedalieri, eds. The Camouflage Project: A Devised Performance/Exhibition. Exhibition catalog. Columbus OH: Ohio State University, 2011.
Hartcup, G. Camouflage: A History of Concealment and Deception in War (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980). A thorough, well-written overview of the development of modern military camouflage, including the contributions of artists. Illustrated with historic photographs.
Hreachmack, P. The Painter's Guide to World War Two Naval Camouflage. (Phoenixville, Pennsylvania: Clash of Arms, 1999). This is a camouflage manual for those who paint miniature ship models. It includes schematic drawings of World War II naval camouflage for American, British, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and other ships.
Hurst, H. "Dazzle Painting in War-Time," in International Studio (September 1919), pp. 93-97. A persuasive eyewitness description of the unforgettable experience of seeing a harbor of dazzle-painted ships during World War I. Illustrated by artists' renderings of the same experience.
Kaempffert , W. "Fighting the U-Boat with Paint" in Popular Science Monthly. Vol 94 No 4 (April 1919), pp. 17-19. A popular-press overview of World War I ship camouflage.
Kahn, E.L. The Neglected Majority: "Les Camoufleurs," Art History, and World War I (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984). An account of the involvement of French artists, including some cubists, in the development of World War I camouflage, based on extensive research of French government archives.
Keen, A.M. "Protective Coloration in the Light of Gestalt Theory," in Journal of General Psychology 6 (1932), pp. 200-203. An early speculative essay about the commonalities among art, gestalt theory, and biological camouflage.
Kepes, G. Language of Vision (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1944). Kepes taught camouflage, among other things, at the New Bauhaus in Chicago, then later moved to MIT. This widely influential book considers how artists, designers and camoufleurs make use of the same perceptual tendencies. Also see Arnheim (1954).
Kingsland, S. "Abbott Thayer and the Protective Coloration Debate" in Journal of the History of Biology 11, No. 2 (1978), pp. 223-244. A detailed historical narrative on the controversy that surrounded Thayer's writings on biological camouflage.
Klonbach, J. "Mobilization of Modern Design: Architects' and Artists' Pursuit of Camouflage during World War II." Paper presented at conference titled Front to Rear: Architecture and Planning during World War II at New York University (March 7-8, 2009). The contribution of artists, designers and architects in the US to World War II camouflage for civilian defense. Available as an online video at
Krass, P. Portrait of War: The US Army's First Combat Artists and the Doughboys' Experience in WWI (New York: John Wiley, 2007). An especially vivid, engaging account of the eight artists who served as Official War Artists (or "combat artists") during World War I. Several of them were also involved in camouflage. Also see Cornebise (1991a) and (1991b).
Leach, N. Camouflage (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2006). The author is an architectural theorist who, in this case, was influenced by a well-known essay on mimicry by French philosopher Roger Callois, titled "Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia," and by the writings of Walter Benjamin. Camouflage affords a means by which humans can connect with their physical and psychological surroundings, and thereby find a meaningful space.
Lehndorff, V and H. Trulzsch Veruschka: Trans-figurations (Boston: Little Brown, 1986). Superb photographs of attempts to disrupt and conceal the human body in various surroundings, using intricate body painting.
Luckiesh, M. Visual Illusions: Their Causes, Characteristics and Applications (New York: Dover Publications, 1965). Essays on perception and optics by a World War I-era physicist and science writer, including a classic chapter on camouflage.
Maskelyne, J. Magic: Top Secret (London: Stanley Paul, c1948). An entertaining memoir about a prominent magician's supposed contributions to British field camouflage during World War II. In recent years, questions have been raised about the accuracy of Maskelyne's claims.
McElroy, G. Razzle Dazzle: The Uses of Abstraction (Oshawa, Ontario, Canada: Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2008). The author was the curator of an innovative exhibition (for which this was the catalog) on dazzle ship camouflage in relation to later experiments in geometric abstraction in painting.
Méndez Baiges, M. Camuflaje: Engaño y ocultación en el arte contemporaneo (Madrid, Spain: Ediciones Siruela, 2007). The author, who teaches contemporary art at the University of Malaga, has published a series of articles on artists who make use of camouflage, sometimes literally, sometimes not. In this book, she considers the range and implications of camouflage-related art in Modern and Postmodern eras.
Méndez Baiges, M. and P. Pizarro. Camuflajes. Exhibition catalog. Madrid, Spain: La Casa Encendida, 2009. This is the richly illustrated catalog of an international exhibition of art inspired by camouflage that opened in Spain in 2009. Works by a wide variety of artists are reproduced, with a commentary in Spanish.
Meryman, R. "A Painter of Angels Became the Father of Camouflage" in Smithsonian Magazine (April 1999), pp. 116-128. The author of this delightful and informative article on Abbott H. Thayer's contribution to camouflage is the son of Richard Meryman, who was Thayer's student and a World War I US Army camoufleur.
Metzger, W. Gesetze des Sehens (Frankfort am Main: Waldemar Kramer, 1975). A lengthy, richly illustrated guide to form perception, including camouflage, from the viewpoint of a gestalt psychologist. During World War II, he contributed to German military camouflage. Even though this (enlarged) edition of the book has never been translated into English, one can still gain quite a lot by studying the illustrations.
Moore, H.W. Camouflage Cookery: A Book of Mock Dishes (New York: Duffield, 1918). This charming little book is exactly what it claims to be. It offers recipes in which unorthodox ingredients are combined to create equivalents of common foods such as apple pie, roast duck and chop suey.
Murphy, H., and M. Bellamy "The Dazzling Zoologist: John Graham Kerr and the Early Development of Ship Camouflage" in The Northern Mariner. 19 No 2 (April 2009), pp. 171-192. It is nearly always claimed that dazzle camouflage was the brain child of British artist Norman Wilkinson (c1917). This extensive, amply documented study argues that Wilkinson’s work was predated by experiments in “disruptive camouflage” by Scottish embryologist and Minister of Parliament John Graham Kerr.
Naverson, R. "The Scenographer as Camoufleur," Ph.D. dissertation (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1989). An ambitious, wide-ranging account of the contribution of theatrical set designers to military camouflage.
Nemerov, A. "Vanishing Americans: Abbott Thayer, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Attraction of Camouflage" in American Art (Summer 1997), pp. 51-81. A thought-provoking essay on the contrasting attitudes toward natural camouflage of Thayer and Roosevelt, considered as extensions of their attitudes about manhood. See also Banta (1978).
Newark, T., et al. Brassey's Book of Camouflage (Herndon VA: Brassey's, 1996). The history of camouflage in military uniforms in this century, illustrated by scores of full-color photographs.
Newark, T. Camouflage (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007). This is a highly readable, profusely illustrated volume that was published in conjunction with a major exhibition on camouflage at the Imperial War Museum in London. Introduction by Jonathan Miller.
Paul, E. "Art and Camouflage" in F. Crowninshield, ed., Vogue's First Reader (New York: Julian Messner, 1942), pp. 256-259. This little known essay by an American writer (he wrote The Last Time I Saw Paris and the screenplay for Rhapsody in Blue) anticipates later ideas about the relatedness of art and camouflage.
Penrose, R. Home Guard Manual of Camouflage (London: G. Routledge, 1941). A handbook for civilians, written and illustrated by a surrealist artist and early biographer of Picasso, who taught camouflage during World War II.
Portmann, A. Animal Camouflage (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959). An illustrated essay on biological camouflage.
Portmann, A. Animal Forms and Patterns (New York: Schocken, 1967). A classic study of the appearance of animals, including camouflage, with exquisite pen and ink drawings by Sabine Baur. The opening sentence of the preface reads: "The subject of this book is animal Gestalt."
Rankin, N. A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. This book was initially published as Churchill’s Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945 (London: Faber and Faber, 2008). As the titles indicate, it is a detailed account of a wide range of British deception (not only camouflage) in both World Wars.
Reik, T. Listening with the Third Ear (New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1949). In this anthology of writings by a famous psychiatrist, there is an astonishing essay on "Neurotic Camouflage," in which he talks about the ways in which neurotics may cleverly hide their symptoms from others.
Reit, S. Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1978). A highly readable history of military camouflage during World War II, including the contributions of artists, with particular emphasis on mimicry and decoys. Interestingly, the author (who originated the cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost) was himself a camoufleur during World War II.
Richardson, B. Andy Warhol: Camouflage (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 1999). This is the catalog for an exhibition of Warhol's camouflage paintings and silkscreens, dated 1986. The attention these works have received is disproportionate to their profundity, with the result that the main value of this book is in what it says about artists other than Warhol.
Rickard, G. "Camouflage: Then and Now" in Military Engineer 34 (April 1942), pp. 189-197. A highly informative article on modern camouflage by an American architect who contributed to camouflage in both World Wars.
Roskam, A. Dazzle Painting: Kunst Als Camouflage: Camouflage Als Kunst (Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Stichting Kunstprojecten en Uitgevergij Van Spijk, 1987). The catalog for an exhibition about the involvement of artists in the development of disruptive ship camouflage during World War I, illustrated with artworks and historic photographs.
Roussanne, F. "Chronique de l'Institut d'Histoire des Conflits Contemporains," in Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains 44, No 175 (1994), pp. 147-150. A brief but helpful discussion about the development of French camouflage during World War I.
Saint-Gaudens, H. "Camouflage and Art" in Art Bulletin 2, No 1 (September 1919), pp. 23-30. Homer Saint-Gaudens was the son of the celebrated sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. When the American Camouflage Corps (Company A of the 4oth US Corps of Engineers) was formed in 1918, the younger Saint-Gaudens (a theatre designer) was put in charge of it. This is one of several articles by him on the subject.
Schwartz, H. The Culture of the Copy (New York: Zone Books, 1996). A meandering, delightfully speculative book about replicas, duplicates, and twins, including a chapter on camouflage.
Scott, P. The Eye of the Wind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961). The autobiography of a World War II ship camoufleur. An artist, naturalist and author, he was the son of Antarctic explorer Captain Robert Scott.
Scott-Samuel, N.E., et al. “Dazzle Camouflage Affects Speed Perception” in PLoS ONE Vol 6 No 6 (2011), e20233. Report on a recent experiment by British zoologists, the results of which appear to show that dazzle-like patterns applied to a Land Rover can interfere with speed perception, thereby possibly spoiling the aim of a handheld grenade launcher. Available online.
Shapiro, T. Painters and Politics (New York: Elsevier, 1976). A discussion of art in relation to politics, including the involvement of French artists in World War I camouflage.
Shell, H.R. “The Crucial Moment of Deception” in Cabinet Magazine. Issue 33 (Spring 2009). Online at
Skerret, R.G. "Hiding Ships With Paint" in Popular Science Monthly. 92 (1918), pp. 514-516. A brief, instructive essay on the requirements of dazzle camouflage, and why it was effective in deterring U-boat torpedo attacks. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Skerrett, R.G. "How We Put It Over on the Periscope" in The Rudder 35 No 3 (March 1919), pp. 97-102, and 35 No 4 (April 1919), pp. 175-179. A detailed account of the efforts to camouflage American merchant ships during World War I. It places particular emphasis on the role of the Submarine Defense Association and the Emergency Fleet Corporation. Supplemented by helpful diagrams. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Sloane, E. Camouflage Simplified (New York: Devin-Adair, 1942). A succinct, insightful handbook on military and civilian camouflage, written and illustrated by a popular American artist.
Solomon, S.J. Strategic Camouflage (London: J. Murray, 1920). A postwar critique of Allied and German camouflage during World War I by Solomon J. Solomon, a prominent British painter and camoufleur.
Staerck, C., ed. Allied Photo Reconnaissance of World War II (San Diego, California: Thunder Bay Press, 1998). An illustrated history of aerial reconnaissance photography, with primary emphasis on its extensive and important use during World War II.
Stanley II, R.M. To Fool a Glass Eye: Camouflage Versus Photo Reconnaissance in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Press, 1998). Richly illustrated account of the efforts of photo interpreters during World War II to decipher enemy camouflage and decoys in aerial photographs.
Stevens, M. and S. Merilaita, eds. Animal Camouflage: Mechanisms and Function (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011). In the past decade, as this book’s introduction states, “there has been an explosion of studies of camouflage [by] researchers from biology, visual psychology, computer science and art.” This is a collection of 17 recently published papers, mostly by biologists, about new experiments in animal camouflage.
Sumrall, R.G. "Ship Camouflage (WWI): Deceptive Art," in United States Naval Institute Proceedings 97, No. 7 (July 1971), pp. 57-77. A brief summary of World War I American ship camouflage, illustrated by diagrams and historic photographs.
Sumrall, R.G. "Ship Camouflage (WWII): Deceptive Art," in United States Naval Institute Proceedings 99, No. 2 (February 1973), pp. 67-81 and 89-92. A brief summary of World War II ship camouflage (a sequel to the previous entry), illustrated by diagrams and historic photographs.
Sykes, S. Deceivers Ever: Memoirs of a Camouflage Officer 1939-1945 (Kent, England: Spellmount, 1990). Detailed firsthand report of the author's experience as a British camoufleur in North Africa during World War II.
Taussig, M. "Zoology, Magic and Surrealism on the War on Terror" in Critical Inquiry 34 Supplement (Winter 2008), pp. S98-S116. The thoughts of a prominent scholar about camouflage in relation to current political ills such as lying, deceit and distortion.
Thayer, A.H. “Teaching Britannia Her Job” in New York Tribune. (August 13, 1916), pp. 4ff. This essay was prompted by the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which had struck an iceberg four years earlier in 1912, and the assumption of naval authorities that white was a highly conspicuous color for ships. In Thayer’s editorial, he argues the opposite: White is the best ship color, he says, for low visibility (as confirmed by the low visibility of the iceberg). Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Thayer, A.H. "Camouflage" in The Scientific Monthly VII (1918), pp. 481-494. In what appears to be Abbott H. Thayer's last published paper, he talks about and illustrates the application of his theories of biological camouflage for military purposes. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Thayer, G.H. "The Concealing Coloration of Animals: New Light on an Old Subject" in Century Magazine LXXVI, No. 25 (May 1908), pp. 249-261. This substantial, clearly worded account of Abbott H. Thayer's theories of countershading and other aspects of biological camouflage was written by his son, Gerald, and published one year in advance of the first edition of their book (see next entry).
Thayer, G.H. Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (New York: Macmillan, 1909; 2nd ed., 1918). A groundbreaking, profusely illustrated work on the theories of Abbott H. Thayer, a prominent 19th-century American painter, who is sometimes said to be the "father of camouflage." While some of its conclusions have always been controversial, it remains one of the most important books on the subject.
Thayer, G.H. "Camouflage in Nature and in War" in Brooklyn Museum Quarterly 10 (1923), pp. 147-169. In a footnote, its author Gerald Thayer states that he wrote this essay in 1919, but waited four years to publish it (after the death of his father), perhaps because he could not bear to contradict the pronouncements of his father, whom he describes in this essay as an "extreme believer, or over-believer" who was "at once an unequalled expert and an extremist."
Toch, M. “The Fine Art of Military Camouflage” in Munsey’s Magazine 64 No 1 (June 1918), pp. 5-8. Maximilian Toch was a New York-based authority on paint chemistry. This essay is a review of developments in World War I camouflage (both ground and naval), some of which he contributed to.
Toch, M. "Adventures in Camouflage," in Military Engineer 23 (July-August 1931), pp. 307-309. Toch’s view of his involvement in World War I American ship camouflage.
Toliver, O.S. An Artist at War: The Journal of John Gaitha Browning (Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 1994). Excerpts from the diary of a World War II American Army camoufleur.
Trevelyan, J. Indigo Days (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1957). A spirited memoir by a prominent British artist and camoufleur, who early in World War II formed an industrial camouflage firm with Roland Penrose, Stanley William Hayter and others.
Wadsworth, B. Edward Wadsworth: A Painter's Life (UK: Michael Russell, 1989). The biography, written by his daughter, of a British Vorticist painter who oversaw the dazzle painting of camouflaged ships during World War I.
Warner, E.L. "Marine Camouflage" in The Bush Magazine of Factory and Shipping Economy. (January 15, 1918), pp. 12-14. An essay advocating the use of disruptive patterns for World War I ship camouflage, instead of the usual battleship gray. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Warner, E.L. "The Science of Marine Camouflage Design," in Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society 14, No 5 (July 21, 1919), pp. 215-219. A first person narrative of World War I American ship camouflage (nicknamed "baffle painting" and "jazz painting"), by the artist in charge of the design branch of the camouflage team. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Warner, E.L. "Painting Battleships for Low Visibility" in Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society. Vol 14 No 5 (July 21, 1919), pp. 220-224. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Warner, E.L. "Fooling the Iron Fish: The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage," in Everybody's Magazine (November 1919), pp. 102-109. A popularized version of the previous entry, more or less. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
White, N. Abbott H. Thayer: Painter and Naturalist (Hartford, CT: Connecticut Printers, 1951). An impressively detailed account of the life and achievements of an American painter who was also a leading contributor to biological and military camouflage.
Whyte, L.L., ed. Aspects of Form (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951). A classic collection of essays about perception and appearance in art and science, including contributions by Rudolf Arnheim, E.H. Gombrich, C.H. Waddington, and Konrad Lorenz. See especially "Animal Form in Relation to Appearance" by Hugh B. Cott, a British zoologist and military camoufleur; and Lancelot Law Whyte's astonishing "Chronological Survey on Form."
Wickler, W. Mimicry in Plants and Animals (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968). A richly illustrated overview of deceptive resemblance in plants and animals.
Wilkinson, N. "Dazzle Painting of Ships" in The Nautical Gazette (September 13, 1919), p. 177. A brief overview of World War I “dazzle painting” by its primary proponent. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Wilkinson, N. "Naval Camouflage," in Encyclopedia Britannica 12th Ed., Vol. 1 (1922), pp. 546-547. An illustrated article on World War I ship camouflage by the inventor of dazzle painting. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Wilkinson, N. A Brush With Life (London: Seeley Service and Company, 1969). The autobiography of a British watercolor painter who was also a major contributor to World War I ship camouflage.
Williams, D. Liners in Battledress: Wartime Camouflage and Color Schemes for Passenger Ships (St Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing, 1989). An overview of the camouflage of passenger ships, illustrated with historic photographs. It is a wonderful book, but beware that there are errors in its listings of American camoufleurs.
Williams, D. Naval Camouflage 1914--1945: A Complete Visual Reference (UK: Chatham Publishing, 2003). An impressively rich pictorial guide to ship camouflage in both World Wars, with nonexclusive emphasis on British and American.
v Williams, H.S. "The Failure that Sank 5000 Ships" in Hearst's 36 No 2 (January 1919), pp. 50-51. According to the author, nearly 5000 Allied ships were sunk by German U-boats in World War I. Much of that could have been prevented, he argues, if course deception camouflage had been used more widely. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Williams, H.S. "Why the Leopard Doesn't Change His Spots" in Hearst's 35 No 2 (February 1919), pp. 50-51. Using repeated comparisons to protective coloration and natural selection, this is a lengthy, clearly stated plea for the continued use, after World War I, of dazzle ship camouflage. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Yates, R.F. "The Science of Camouflage Explained" in Everyday Engineering Magazine (March 1919), pp. 253-256. A detailed account of the camouflage work of American muralist William Andrew Mackay, who was the leading figure in a New York-based unit of civilian camouflage artists for the Emergency Fleet Corporation during World War I. There is mention of Mackay’s camouflage school, and the ways in which his theories diverged from those of his contemporaries. Reprinted in Behrens (2012).
Updated 27 March 2012