London Imperial War Museum Presents Camouflage
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, on view from 23 March to 18 November 2007, at Imperial War Museum, London.
In the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever held on the subject, Camouflage will explain 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 will feature some of the very first hand-painted disruptive pattern uniforms created by these French camoufleurs. It will 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, were popped up above trenches to locate German snipers during the First World War, will be 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 will explore 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 will also explain 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 will be 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 will be published by Thames & Hudson to coincide with the exhibition opening. -- www.iwm.org.uk