Friday, November 30, 2007

Modernist Art and Battleships

"Like most of us, The Allies only turned to modern art out of desperation. German U-boats were sinking enormous amounts of shipping and there was no really effective defense against them. It is axiomatic that if you can't stop the people who are shooting at you, you should make it very hard for them to find you. Thus, camouflage.

Most camouflage is based on the idea of concealment and blending in with its surroundings. However another school of thought has argued for making the item in question appear to be a mashup of unrelated components. Naval camoufleurs found this theory particularly appealing. Blending didn't work because ships operated in two different and constantly changing color environments – sea and sky. Any camo that concealed in one environment was usually spectacularly conspicuous in others.

Norman Wilkinson, a British naval officer and painter, suggested a scheme that came to be known as Dazzle or Razzle Dazzle painting. Wilkinson believed that breaking up a ship's silhouette with brightly contrasting geometric designs would make it harder for U-boat captains to determine the ship's course."

Whether or not this tactic of Razzle Dazzle really worked is hard to determine as at the same time, the convoy system was also implemented. I'm sure the ships looked confusing, but to be honest, I reckon some of the designs are pretty over the top conceptions. I would have thought fractals of greys and blues would have worked better. (I'm no naval engineer though)But it does allow the naval ships to claim the honour of being the largest painted canvases ever!

Original Post and Description [VIA]

1 comment:

Greg Easton said...

Standing all by itself it's pretty easy to say "That's a crazy painted warship". But the idea was that, traveling in convoys, from a distance it would be impossible for a U-Boat captain to get accurate ranging information on a specific target because you couldn't tell where one ship ended and the next began.

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