The Razzle Dazzle Day Thread (Dec 17)

Unrestricted submarine warfare during World War I had a devastating affect on Britain, with Germany’s U-Boats freed by the Kaiser in 1917 to attempt to sink any ship entering hostile waters. To try to prevent the mounting awful losses, attempts at camouflage were designed and implemented, including what would be called “dazzle”, or “razzle dazzle”, innovated by Norman Wilkinson.

HMS Argus

Such decoration seems counter-intuitive, but – inspired in part by camouflage found in nature – the goal of such strikingly painted ships was to confuse, not conceal; as Wilkinson would explain: “Since it was impossible to paint a ship so that she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer – in other words, to paint her, not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as the course on which she was heading.”

HMS Olympic

Dazzle was once again used in the early years of World War II, but the use of more effective rangefinders, RADAR, and aircraft spotters reduced its effectiveness.

It did have an effect, however, on artists, especially the Cubists and Vorticists. Picasso even claimed that he invented it in the first place!

BLAST 2, the Vorticist magazine. Cover art by Wyndham Lewis

Enjoy your day, Avocados!