Now You See It ... Now You Don't ... as a New Exhibition on the History of Camouflage Opens at the Imperial War Museum This Month, Tim Newark Reveals the Contribution Made by English Surrealists to Wartime Defiance Schemes

By Newark, Tim | History Today, March 2007 | Go to article overview

Now You See It ... Now You Don't ... as a New Exhibition on the History of Camouflage Opens at the Imperial War Museum This Month, Tim Newark Reveals the Contribution Made by English Surrealists to Wartime Defiance Schemes


Newark, Tim, History Today


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

SURREALISM BURST ONTO THE ENGLISH art scene in 1936 with an exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries in London. It was organized by Roland Penrose, a Surrealist painter and collector then in his mid-30s. His greatest coup was to get Salvador Dali to turn up at the private view and give a lecture while wearing a diving suit and holding two white greyhounds on a leash.

Four years later, Penrose would be giving lectures to a completely different audience--the Home Guard--on the art of camouflage. But he was still a Surrealist at heart and included slides of his lover, Lee Miller--naked, covered only in camouflage cream and netting--to keep his audience interested.

When war came in 1939, Penrose sought a noncombatant role. With Stanley William Hayter and other artists, they founded the Industrial Camouflage Research Unit at 7 Bedford Square in London. It set about working with factories to create camouflage schemes to protect them from aerial bombing. The government was quick to see the value of camouflaging civilian targets and, by the following year, Penrose was lecturing the Home Guard on camouflage techniques.

Penrose was an excellent communicator and wrote a booklet called Home Guard Manual of Camouflage. It was a thorough analysis of the nature and application of camouflage. He devoted a chapter to camouflage in nature and then showed how these lessons could be applied by the Home Guard to the defence of their country. As in the First World War, the great challenge was to defy enemy aerial photography.

'In order to obtain concealment', instructed Penrose, 'it would appear at first sight that resemblance in colour is the most important factor. Actually, this is not the case. The fact is that a smooth surface reflects more light than a rough surface. In consequence, supposing we have a smooth board and rough piece of bath towel, both painted with exactly the same colour, the smooth board will inevitably look light in tone.'

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Penrose explained it was more important to match the texture of the background than with colour. A coat of paint alone would not do the job. This was because aerial photography eliminated colour from its observations but accentuated differences in tone.

As an artist, Penrose understood the nature of colours and pigments and explained that green--the most obvious colour to use in any camouflage scheme--had a basic flaw in that it usually contained too much blue in its mixture.

'There is very little blue-green in nature,' he said. 'Also, when a green paint contains too much blue there is every probability that in time the yellow in it will fade and the resulting colour appear even more blue ... owing to the persistence of the Prussian blue that is frequently used in green paint.'

The Home Guard had limited resources and so Penrose looked to cheap, easily available materials. He realized that many Home Guards were deployed as aircraft spotters and needed to camouflage their faces as they looked upwards.

'A mixture of soot and flour will make a good paste which sticks to the skin,' he recommended. 'By some who live in country districts cow-dung has been advocated, and for those who have the courage to use it, it can be highly recommended in spite of its unpleasantness, since it retains good colour and texture when dry.'

Net curtains were recommended as a good basic camouflage material for personal coverage, while insulating tape could be wound round the barrel of a rifle. He suggested ways of making sniper suits that included painting a boiler suit and then using a shrimp net to cover the head, or making a suit out of hessian or sacking and then painting it with a disruptive pattern. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Now You See It ... Now You Don't ... as a New Exhibition on the History of Camouflage Opens at the Imperial War Museum This Month, Tim Newark Reveals the Contribution Made by English Surrealists to Wartime Defiance Schemes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.