Les Camoufleurs

The Fine Art of War

Artists became integral to the military effort of France during World War 1. Changing forms of warfare and modern firearms, made the traditional colorful uniforms of the French army impractical. Nearly all the soldiers still wore the famous red trousers advertising their presence to enemy soldiers.

Fine art transformed the French army with the power of camouflage.
Fine art transformed the French army with the power of camouflage.

In 1915, the French army established the world’s first military unit dedicated to disguise—the Section de Camouflage (from the French camoufleur – to veil or disguise). The artists who were assigned to the unit became knows as the Camoufleurs. Artist Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola, who had studied at the École des Beaux Arts established the first camouflage fine art team. It began with thirty artists, but expanded over the war to three thousand. In addition to hand-painting the patterned camouflage fabrics for military uniforms, the teams painted canvas screens and netting to hide gun locations and created artificial observation trees. Seven million square yards of fabric was used by the end of the war. Four workshops employed the teams—one in Paris and three closer to the fronts.

Hand painted French camouflage by Eugene Corbin, 1914.
Hand painted French camouflage by Eugene Corbin, 1914.

The Camoufleurs included many traditional fine art representative painters, but also included many well-known Cubists. Scévola wrote “In order to deform totally the aspect of the object, I had to employ the means that cubists use to represent it.” (from Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage by Peter Forbes) Cubist artists such as André Mare, Jacques Villon, Georges Braque, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Charles Camoin and Roger de La Fresnaye were employed in the Section de Camouflage. In the years before the war, many of them had their artwork ridiculed by critics. They had been seen as unpatriotic and some had their work labeled “Boche painting” because their patrons included many Germans. But their work as Camoufleurs was critical to the war effort. Fifteen of the Camoufleurs were killed during the war.

Britain, the United States and Italy followed the French, establishing their own camouflage units in 1916 and 1917.

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-Ann and John

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

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