Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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  26-Mare

André Mare, Le canon de 280 camouflé (The Camouflaged 280 Gun), ink and watercolour, Sketchbook 2, Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne;

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.
 

26-Mare

André Mare, La position du canon (The Gun Position) ink and watercolour, Sketchbook 5, Historial de la Grande Guerre, Péronne.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.

 
The battlefield
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26 - André Mare

Following the experiments of the autumn and winter of 1914, the first French camouflage squad was formed in February 1915. By the end of the war, camouflaging had become a service in its own right, with production workshops in Paris and near the front lines and the sections attached to the army corps. The numbers rose to three thousand soldiers, and the - essentially female - civilian workforce topped the ten thousand mark. The camouflage experts were, for the most part, painters like Forain, Camoin, Villon and Marcoussis, sculptors like Bouchard and Despiau, and theatre set artists. They invented processes ranging from painted canvases to nets and dummy figures. From 1916, the British Special Works Park followed suit, in close collaboration with the French factories, and the Royal Navy developed techniques for camouflaging ships' hulls. The same occurred on the Italian side where a Laboratorio di mascheramento was set up in 1917. On the German side, concealing artillery relied more on natural materials such as leaves, straw and grass, and was aimed essentially at thwarting aerial reconnaissance. André Mare was one of France's most important exponents of camouflage techniques, to which he applied the principles of dislocated forms derived from Cubism: juxtaposed strips of colour prevented the eye from recognising the shape of the guns, and the colours were chosen to blend in with the surrounding landscape.