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the history of modern camouflage
feb 23, 2009
the history of modern camouflage


popular designs like the U.S. army’s ‘woodland leaf pattern’, 1948 …


… the german buntfarbenmuster, 1918 …


… and the more recent ‘pixel patterns’.


this crab blends in so perfectly with the color of the sand

abbott handerson thayer (august 12, 1849 – May 29, 1921) was a prominent
american artist who spent his spare time studying what he called protective coloration
in nature. it was thayer’s belief that animal markings like zebra stripes and leopard spots
are more than just decorative flourishes cooked up mother nature. instead, by making
the animals harder to see (or at least harder to see clearly), they actively helped them
evade predators or stalk their prey.

in 1898, thayer and another artist, george de forest brush (september 28, 1855 – april 24, 1941),
proposed using camouflage patterns (they called it “counter-shading”) to protect ships during the
spanish-american war. the war ended before the proposal could be acted on. but by the outbreak
of world war I in 1914, many countries were experimenting with camouflage for use on land,
sea and air.

the french were the first to establish an official camouflage unit, the service de camouflage, in 1915.
they were followed by the british, italians, germans and americans. since then, of course, camouflage
has moved off the battlefield and into mainstream culture.


a french artist, louis guingot, is credited with creating the first camouflage infantry uniforms, …


while british camoufleurs may have been inspired by vorticism – a homegrown version of cubism.
here featured ‘the mud bath’, by david bomberg, 1914


in the united states, artists such as thomas hart benton, …


.. charles burchfield…


… and grant wood also worked as military camoufleurs.



andy warhol ‘camouflage last supper’, 1987

the extent to which art movements like cubism and vorticism actually influenced camouflage
remains a matter of debate. there’s a lot of similarity between some of the dazzle patterns and
a movement like cubism. but did one influence the other?


a recent graduate from central saint martins in london, aaron larney…


… created this ‘urban camouflage graffiti’.
http://www.aaronlarney.com




photo by michael o’neill
http://www.jpgmag.com



‘street-urban-camouflage-paris’ 09, via the sartorialist


camouflage heels, manolo blahnik mary janes, 2008

in the old days, women supported the troops by sacrificing the nylon for their stockings
to be used for parachutes.



narciso rodriguez at new york fashion week fall 09 collection



toilet paper camo, image via uberreview

we don’t know how much cover camouflage toilet paper will provide, but if your bathroom
has a hunter design theme, this toilet paper will fit right in.



the US navy gave dazzle plans to each shipping board district
image courtesy of the fleet library at RISD

currently there is an exhibition on camouflage history at the fleet library at RISD,
rhode island school of design, providence,USA.
‘bedazzled’ http://www.risd.edu
it runs through march 29, 2009

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