The Origins of Camouflage

The Extraordinary Life and Work of Abbott Handerson Thayer

15 March - 15 July, 2014

The Army and Navy Club Library Trust Committee, with support from the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art, is sponsoring an event of unique and corresponding interest to both the fine art and the military communities.

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) was a renowned artist and naturalist, who is also widely considered to be the “Father of Camouflage.” One of the country’s preeminent American painters at the turn of the 20th century, Thayer was a lifelong wildlife advocate whose artistic focus never strayed from his personal fascination with the natural world. His 1909 publication, Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, is still to this day considered among the most innovative and thought-provoking treatises on animal camouflage. It is also due in large part to these writings that American, French and British camouflage units were formed during World War I for the first time in history.

Opening March 15, 2014, an exhibit of Thayer’s paintings and drawings showcase rarely exhibited early camouflage studies for naval vessels and military uniforms, as well as Thayer’s landscape and wildlife studies from which his concepts were born.

The Army and Navy Club will mark the exhibit opening with a special reception for members and invited guests, featuring a panel discussion on Thayer’s interdisciplinary influence on art, science, and the military, and the controversial aspects of military camouflage in the 21st century.

Special Guest Speakers: Lee Glazer,  Curator of American Art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Roy R. Behrens, Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar of Camouflage History, University of Northern Iowa. Martin Stevens, Evolutionary Biologist, Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter. Simon Stephens, Curator of the Ship Model and Boat Collections, National Maritime Museum, London. Richard Meryman, Author of Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, and American art scholar.