February 09, 2015
"Our fleet is a flock of sea-going Easter eggs"
When you think of camouflage you usually think of combat trousers and khaki prints, but British Marine artist Norman Wilkinson had a different take on the concept. The perfect combination of military engineering and geometric graphics.
After serving as a royal navy volunteer in 1917, Wilkinson was inspired by Cubism, Futurism and Vorticism to transform the Allied fleet into the 'exact opposite of camouflage'. At the time, German U-boats were blockading Britain's merchant ships and cutting off supplies. Current camouflage tactics were failing.
Wilkinson wanted to confuse the enemy. Combinations of stripes, curves and spirals were thought to dazzle and disorientate the opposition and buy time for the Allies. The Dazzle Ships made it difficult to gauge speed and direction, meaning that enemies were likely to delay or miss their targets.
They also appeal to our love of monochrome.
Head down to Victoria Embankment where, moored between Temple and Blackfriars Bridge, you can see Tobias Rehberger’s modern take on the Dazzle Ship. The HMS President (1918), served as a Dazzle Ship in the First World War as the HMS Saxifrage.
This awesome time lapse video shows the installation process.