Hey all, blogging will continue to be light between now and the start of the academic year a week from this Friday. August and the end of the year holiday season are the times when I slow it down a bit. This past Friday I finally got up to the World War I: Beyond the Trenches exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. I did not realize that Childe Hassam was active in the Preparedness Movement prior to the war. I now see his Flag Series of paintings in better context. I have a feeling this might entail a deeper dive sometime in the coming months.

Dazzle camouflage drawings from the Rhode Island School of Design with ship models, part of the New-York Historical Society exhibit W​orld War I Beyond the Trenches​

These dazzle camouflage models from the N-YHS collection are a reminder that they didn’t fight the war in black and white.

Artists at the Rhode Island School of Design drew the sketches you see above during the war. They are examples of dazzle camouflage, in which paradoxically the goal is not to hide the subject but to highlight it in such a manner and degree that disorients the enemy. In my article about the USS Recruit I briefly mentioned how the National League for Woman’s Service sent its Camouflage Corps to paint that wooden vessel in Union Square as a demonstration of the technique. I don’t pretend to know that much about it, but camouflage has a more involved history than most people realize. It was very much part of the 20th century modern art movement. It wasn’t just a matter of painting disjointed shapes and varied colors. That is why they brought in the artists and graphic designers. Today designers are using digitization to take camo to a whole new level.

A leaf from Ivan Albright’s sketchbook during his service with Base Hospital No. 11. He drew these while the surgeons were working.

Ivan Albright sketched this medical drawing. The young artist was all of about twenty at the time of his service in the Great War and went on in the 1930s to become a renowned artist in the Magic Realism vernacular. During the war he was a draftsman with Base Hospital No. 11 stationed in Nantes. His job was to draw medical sketches in the operating rooms, which the surgeons could later reference in their work. It would be interesting to know how many of artists were used in the base hospitals and if their work survives today.

The exhibit is running through September 3, Labor Day, and so if your are interested you had better hurry. It is your last chance too to see John Singer Sargent’s Gassed before it returns to the Imperial War Museum in London.