Friday, October 2, 2015

Feature Friday: Camouflage

I was recently outside on a rainy day when I noticed a tree across from my neighborhood. The trunk of the tree reminded me instantly of camouflage. I thought to myself, was it these kind of trees that inspired the army uniform print that grew into a fashion trend? Today I decided to find the answer, so this week's Feature Friday is: camouflage!

Camouflage is a French word that means the act of disguising. Some say the "father of camouflage" is Abbott Handerson Thayer, an American artist. He was the first to research "disruptive patterning" to break up an object's outline.

(Left) Thayer's painting entitled, "Peacock in the Woods" demonstrates how an animal can 'camouflage' themselves in nature.

Thayer first became involved in military camouflage in 1898, during the Spanish–American War. He and his friend, George de Forest Brush, proposed the use of protective coloration on American ships, using countershading. The two artists did obtain a patent for their idea in 1902, titled "Process of Treating the Outsides of Ships, etc., for Making Them Less Visible", in which their method is described as having been modeled on the coloration of a seagull.

Gradually, Thayer and Brush entrusted their camouflage work to the responsibility of their sons. Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909), which had taken seven years to prepare, was credited to Thayer's son, Gerald. At about the same time, Thayer once again proposed ship camouflage to the U.S. Navy (and was again unsuccessful), this time working not with Brush, but with Brush's son, Gerome (named in honor of his father's teacher).

In 1915, during World War I, Thayer made proposals to the British War Office, trying unsuccessfully to persuade them to adopt a disruptively patterned battledress, in place of monochrome khaki. Meanwhile, Thayer and Brush's proposal for the use of counter shading in ship camouflage was approved for use on American ships, and a handful of Thayer enthusiasts recruited hundreds of artists to join the American Camouflage Corps.

So it seems that the tree I saw may have not been the primary inspiration! (But it was definitely a part of it!)


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