Online, printed and video sources of additional information about World War I ship camouflage

Gregory Mason in The Outlook. Vol 119. The Outlook Company (1918), p. 625—

The harbor [at Hong Kong in 1918] was alive with shipping…There were two camouflaged steamers—that is, boats painted in a fantastic fashion calculated to confuse the eye of one who might fire to sink them. They looked exactly like cubist nightmares, being daubed with circles, triangles, parallelograms, and all the shapes of geometry in various colors.


Everett L. Warner “Fooling the Iron Fish: The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage” in Everybody’s Magazine (November 1919)—

…it was precisely when our work was most firmly grounded on the book of Euclid that the uninitiated were the most positive that the ships were being painted haphazard by a group of crazy cubists.

G.A. Martin, “Camouflaged Ship at Close Range Looks Like House Afire” in El Paso Herald, Editorial and Magazine Page (December 13, 1918), p. 6—

…a crazy quilt is a model of accuracy compared to the streaks and stripes on a camouflaged ship. They start at the prow with a black streak, perhaps, that may resemble the figure 7 or something else as grotesque and follow this all the way back with alternate streaks and stripes of white, yellow, pale blue and other colors.

The complicated whole very much resembles a futurist or cubist painting and a close view reminds you of looking at a zebra after a session of several hours with a few quarts of champagne, if you can imagine how a zebra would look under such circumstances.



Equinox: The Art of Deception (film, 1988 BBC).

NOVA: Disguises of War (film,1989 PBS).

Invisible: Abbott Thayer and the Art of Camouflage (film, 2008).

Razzle Dazzle: The Hidden Story of Camouflage (film, 2013).

Razzle Dazzle: 99% Invisible (radio, 2012).

Midday interview by Margaret Throsby (radio, Australian Public Radio, 2013).

The Fine Print: The History of Camouflage (film, Mountain Dew YouTube, 2015).


The Bauhaus and Beyond: The Shape of Design Education (University of Northern Iowa, 2005, initiator).

Camouflage: Art, Science and Popular Culture (UNI, 2006, initiator).

• Artists at War: Exploring the Connections Between Art and Camouflage Symposium (RISD, 2009, presenter).


• Barton, Chris Dazzle Ships: WWI and the Art of Confusion. Millbrook Press, 2017.

Behrens, R.R. False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage. Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2002.

Behrens, R.R. Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2009.

Behrens, R.R., ed. Ship Shape: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook. Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2012.

• Blaszczyk, R.L. The Color Revolution. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2012.

• Blechman, H., ed. DPM [Disruptive Pattern Material]: An Encyclopedia of Camouflage. London: DPM, 2004.

• Clark, W.B. Philadelphia in the World War 1914-1919. NY: Philadelphia War History Committee, 1922. 

• Cott, H.B. Adaptive Coloration in Nature. London: Methuen, 1940.

• Coutin, C. Tromper l’ennemi: L’invention du camouflage moderne en 1914-1918. Paris: Éditions Pierre de Taillac, 2012.

• Elias A. Camouflage Australia: Art, Nature, Science and War. AU: Sydney University Press, 2011.

• Elias, A., R. Harley and N. Tsoutas, eds., Camouflage Cultures: Beyond the Art of Disappearance. AU: Sydney University Press, 2015.

• Evans, G.L. Dazzle-Painted Ships of WWI. Bristol: Bernard McCall, 2015.

• Forbes, P. Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

• Forsyth, I. Second World War British Camouflage. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.

• Goodden, H. Camouflage and Art: Design for Deception in World War 2. London: Unicorn Press, 2007.

• Hartcup, G. Camouflage: A History of Concealment and Deception in War. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980.

• Kahn, E.L. The Neglected Majority: "Les Camoufleurs," Art History, and World War I. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984. 

• Leach, N. Camouflage. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2006.

• Murphy, K.R. Not Theories but Revelations: The Art and Science of Abbott H. Thayer. Williams College Museum of Art, 2016.

• Newark, T. Camouflage. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007. 

• Penrose, R. Home Guard Manual of Camouflage. London: G. Routledge, 1941.

• Post, A. Abbott Handerson Thayer: A Beautiful Law of Nature. Washington DC: Gold Leaf Studios, 2014.

• Rankin, N. A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

• Reit, S. Masquerade: The Amazing Camouflage Deceptions of World War II. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1978. 

• Roskam, A. Dazzle Painting: Kunst Als Camouflage: Camouflage Als Kunst. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Stichting Kunstprojecten en Uitgevergij Van Spijk, 1987.

• Shell, H.R. Hide and Seek: Camouflage, Photography and the Media of Reconnaissance. Cambridge: Zone Books, 2012. 

• Sloane, E. Camouflage Simplified. New York: Devin-Adair, 1942.

• Stevens, M. and S. Merilaita, eds. Animal Camouflage: Mechanisms and Function. UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

• Taylor, J. Dazzle: Disguise and Disruption in War and Art. London: Pool of London, 2016. 

Thayer, G.H. Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom. New York: Macmillan, 1909; 2nd ed., 1918.

• Victionary. Camo Mania: New Disruptive Patterns in Design. Hong Kong: Victionary, 2016.

• White, N.C. Abbott H. Thayer: Artist and Naturalist. Hartford: Connecticut Printers, 1951. 

• Wilkinson, N. A Brush With Life. London: Seeley Service and Company, 1969. 

• Williams, D. Liners in Battledress: Wartime Camouflage and Color Schemes for Passenger Ships. St Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing, 1989.


• Atterbury, P. "Dazzle Painting in the First World War," in Antique Collector 46 (1975), pp. 25-29.

• Behrens, R.R. “Setting the stage for deception: perspective distortion in World War I camouflage” in Aisthesis: Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico (2016) Firenze, Italy.

Behrens, R.R. “Chicanery and conspicuousness: social repercussions of World War I camouflage” UNIversitas, University of Northern Iowa (February 2018).

• Bement, A. "Principles Underlying Ship Camouflage" in International Marine Engineering. (February 1919), pp. 90-93.

• Besselièvre Jean-Yves, "Razzle Dazzle: L’art de l’illusion" in Le Chasse Marée. No 291 (2017), pp. 68-75.

• Cott, H.B. "Camouflage in Nature and War," in Royal Engineers Journal, (December 1938), pp. 501-517.

• Covert C. “Art at War: Dazzle Camouflage” in Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America. Vol 26 No 2 (Fall 2007), pp. 50-56.

Gordon, J. “The Art of Dazzle-Painting” in Land & Water (December 12, 1918).

• Hurst, H. "Dazzle Painting in War-Time," in International Studio (September 1919), pp. 93-97.

• L'Aot-Lombart, L. and J-Y. Besselièvre, "Peintures de guerre...Le camouflage Razzle Dazzle” in Les Cahiers de l'Iroise No 225 (2017), pp. 191-209.

• Murphy, H., and M. Bellamy "The Dazzling Zoologist: John Graham Kerr and the Early Development of Ship Camouflage" in The Northern Mariner. 19 No 2 (April 2009), pp. 171-192.  

• Skerrett, R.G. "How We Put It Over on the Periscope" in The Rudder 35 No 3 (March 1919), pp. 97-102, and 35 No 4 (April 1919), pp. 175-179.

• Warner, E.L. "The Science of Marine Camouflage Design," in Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society 14, No 5 (July 21, 1919), pp. 215-219. 

Warner, E.L. "Fooling the Iron Fish: The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage," in Everybody's Magazine (November 1919), pp. 102-109.

Yates, R.F. "The Science of Camouflage Explained" in Everyday Engineering Magazine (March 1919), pp. 253-256.


NOTE Source items marked with a red dot are linked to online files. Click to access and/or download.

Robert Gibbings

Fowey Harbor (c1919)