Disguise and Disruption in War and Art
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Published:September 15, 2016
By James Taylor (Author)
While it is a constant throughout history that conflict has inspired and engendered great art, it is a much rarer event for art to impact directly upon the vicissitudes of war. Yet, in the course of the First World War, a collision of naval strategy and the nascent modern art movement, led to some two thousand British ships going to sea as the largest painted modernist “canvases” in the world covered in abstract, clashing, decorative, and geometric designs in a myriad of colors. Dazzle camouflage had arrived.

Heavily inspired by the Cubism and British Vorticism art movements, dazzle was conceived and developed by celebrated artist and then naval commander Norman Wilkinson. Dazzle camouflage rejects concealment in favor of disruption. It seeks to break up a ship’s silhouette with brightly contrasting geometric designs to make a vessel’s speed and direction incredible difficult to discern. False painted bow-waves and sterns were used to confuse and throw off the deadly U-boat captains. The high contrast shapes and colors further made it very difficult to match up a ship in the two halves of an optical naval rangefinder. This new book traces the development of the dazzle aesthetic from theory into practice and beyond.


List Price: $36.00
Member Price: $28.80
Product Details
  • Hardback : 128 pages
  • Illustrations: 82 color and 59 b/w
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (September 15, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1591146364
  • ISBN-13: 9781591146360
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 X 7.75 in
  • Shipping Weight: 14.45 oz
  • ‘Naval Books of the Year’. “Those who regard dazzle more as an art form may well find this an interesting read.” —Warship
  • “The color illustrations—mostly early 20th Century paintings—will enamor sailors, historians, artists, designers and anyone else dazzled by design (popularized as Op Art in the 1960s).” —Military Times
  • “Taylor’s detailed account of Dazzle, his careful selection of photographs, illustrations, and paintings, all printed and bound in a beautiful book is essential for anyone interested in the history of naval deception, World War I navies, or the rare but respected breed who enjoys the intersection of war and art.” – Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC)
  • “… a wealth of visual material within quite a slim volume in a way that complements the text so well.” —The International Journal of Maritime History
  • “James Taylor's [book] is the colorfully illustrated story of Wilkinson's invention of a camouflage scheme for ships during World War One that was intended to confuse the submarine officers who needed to know a target's location and course before firing torpedoes; it was an ingenious creation, echoed today in modern art and clothing.” —The Red Crew

James Taylor is a former curator of paintings at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. His most recent books include Your Country Needs You: The Secret History of the Propaganda Poster Marine Painting and Careless Talk Costs.

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