Monday, 8 November 2010

Lucien Victor Guirand de Scévola (1871 - 1950)

"The Kings Daughter"

"La Princesse" 1902

"Portrait of a girl"

Guirand de Scevola (1871-1950), who invented camouflage, is an academic painter with a slight symbolist tendency. His works were exhibited, albeit rarely, at the Salon des Artistes Francais, the Salon Nationale and the Salon d'Automne. Elizabeth Louise Kahn describes the situation in which Scevola developed the military design. According to Kahn, the beginning of the war found him working as a telephone operator for an artillery division near the city of Metz. As an intermediary between the headquarters and the combatants at the front lines, he observed their communication. One of their exchanges revealed that the artillery unit at the front was hit soon after it began to act as the order, which led Scevola to believe that they had been spotted. At this moment the idea of camouflage occurred to him. After months of research and experiments, Scevola finally presented his results for the officers at Toul. He dressed a team of artillerymen in smocks and cloaks streaked with paint and assembled them around a cannon similarly decorated. An aviator then flew at an altitude of 300 meters in an attempt to locate the team, but was unable to distinguish them from their surroundings.

La Section Camouflage was thus inaugurated on February 12, 1915, with Scevola as the head of the team. Their orders included the painting of artillery, uniforms, airplanes, hangers, and ships; the concealment of transport routes, communication trenches, and battery installations; and the construction of observation posts in the guise of dead tree trunks. Britain soon followed suit, establishing the British Camouflage Service in 1916. In the following year, the British marine painter Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) designed camouflage for ships, called "dazzle painting," which effectively distorted the true routes of British ships, and thus kept them safe from German submarines. In 1916, Germany responded by introducing a helmet painted with a disruptive pattern for their storm troopers, that helped diminish a silhouette seen over a trench parapet. The United States also established the American Camouflage Corps in 1917.

Throughout the First World War, the application of the camouflage pattern was limited mainly to artillery, ships, and helmets. Uniforms remained in monochromes such as khaki and gray. It is important to note that the main purpose of camouflage at this period is to disrupt the shapes of the objects when they are seen at a distance rather than to conceal them by harmonizing them with their environments. It is only after 1938, just before the Second World War, that Germany supplied camouflaged uniforms to the elite unites Waffen-SS and Wehrmacht with the latter purpose in mind.

1 comment:

Megandmidge said...

Artist Abbott Henderson Thayer is also known as the father of camouflage according the the April 1999 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.