German artist Tobias Rehberger has covered HMS President (1918), one of the last three surviving Royal Navy warships built during the First World War, in ‘dazzle camouflage’ print in an imitation of the method devised to confuse German submarines. The idea was that the ‘dazzle painting’ of stripes and curves would create a boggling optical illusion that was difficult to target.
The scientist John Graham Kerr suggested the disguise to Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, in 1914 and marine painter Norman Wilkinson developed the technique, which was admired by Picasso as well as Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, who supervised the decoration of more than 2,000 ships. The designs were first tested on model ships and viewed through a periscope before being scaled up.
The project, commissioned by the 14–18 NOW programme (www.1418NOW.org.uk), can be seen on the Thames near Somerset House, London WC2, where HMS President— coincidentally also the office premises for the COUNTRY LIFE Fair team (September 27–28)—is permanently moored.
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