Fleet Library
Maurice L. Freedman donated the plans and photos in the collection of the Fleet Library at RISD. Maurice was the district camoufleur for the 4th district of the U.S. Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation. The Shipping Board is a precursor to today's Merchant Marines. The Navy gave dazzle plans to each Shipping Board district. Maurice’s job was to take the plans and hire painters (artists, house painters) to paint the ships accordingly. If the plans needed to be adjusted, this was also his responsibility. According to one of the photos from our collection, the SS Everglades was the first ship launched in the U.S. already camouflaged July 29, 1918 in Florida.
Maurice came to RISD after the war and studied drawing and painting. He worked in Providence as a commercial artist. He came up with one of the first versions of the game Battleship. In the 1950s, he became the Assistant Art Director of Paramount Cards. In the early 1980s he passed away in Revere, Massachusetts.
Our collection consists of 455 plans (includes port and starboard sides of a ship) and 20 photos. There are 10 types of merchant ships represented with multiple designs for each of those ships.

About the Exhibit and Symposium

What is Dazzle

go to the official blog.

The father of camouflage, Abbott Thayer described animal coloration as a way to conceal or disrupt an object. Dazzle is disruptive (think of a zebra). French artists developed military camouflage in World War I. Ships were hard to camouflage against U-boats because the sea and sky were always changing and of the smoke they produced. Norman Wilkinson, a marine painter who was in the Royal Navy, is credited with being the first to develop dazzle camouflage for ships. The Royal Navy allowed him to test his idea. When the test went well Wilkinson was told to proceed, however, he was given no office space. So he went to his alma mater the Royal Academy and was given a classroom. Wilkinson hired Vorticist Edward Wadsworth to be a port officer in Liverpool, England and oversee the painting of dazzle ships. In 1918, Wilkinson came to United States to share his dazzle plans. 1,000 plans were developed through this partnership.
Did it work? Dazzle and the convoy system were implemented about the same time, so it is hard to say. However, crews on dazzle ships were very proud of the bedazzled camouflage. It was definitely a morale booster. The British and the Americans fully adopted dazzle because at the time they found it to be effective and inexpensive.

About the Collection

go to the official blog.

The “Bedazzled” Exhibit and the “Artists at War: Exploring the Connections Between Art and Camouflage” Symposium will examine the questions surrounding the relationship of art and camouflage.

This exhibit will be at the Fleet Library at RISD, January 26-March 29, 2009 during library hours (Monday-Friday 8:30am-7pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday noon-7pm).

The exhibit will focus on three areas: what is camouflage?; dazzle camouflage; and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) student work involving camouflage.

The symposium will be in the Michael P. Metcalf Auditorium in RISD’s Chace Center on February 14, 2009 from 2-4 pm.

The symposium will be comprised of four talks:
  • Peter Harrington
    Curator of Brown’s Military Collection, will explore the relationship of art and camouflage throughout history.

  • Daniel Harkett
    Assistant Professor, Department of History of Visual Art and Culture at RISD, will discuss the art movements of World War I with an emphasis on British Modernism and will examine the question, did camouflage influence art or did art influence camouflage?

  • Roy Behrens
    RISD alumni and a professor of Graphic Design at University of Northern Iowa, will discuss the life of Everett Longley Warner, an artist and camoufleur during World War I and II, and what it was like to be a camoufleur.

  • Claudia Covert
    Readers Services Librarian at the Fleet Library @ RISD, will bring to light RISD’s dazzle camouflage collection and share the stories her research has revealed and what mysteries remain to be solved.

These events are free and open to the public.

Partial funding provided by a minigrant from the Rhode Island Council for Humanities.

Design by Nate & Kirk Mueller
Text by Claudia Covert

About the Collection

go to the official blog.

Click on an image below to explore some of the images from our collection.
Images courtesy of the Fleet Library at RISD.
For educational purposes only.