Camouflage and Art: Design for Deception in World War II by Henrietta Goodden - review by Virginia Ironside

Virginia Ironside

War and Paint

Camouflage and Art: Design for Deception in World War II


Unicorn Press 192pp £30

I’ve always had a special interest in camouflage because my father brilliantly avoided fighting in the Second World War by becoming an Officer in the Camouflage Unit at Leamington Spa. (My uncle had found a different route to a non-combative role, by becoming Number Two to John Rothenstein at the Tate, spending his time ferrying old masters to secret caves around Britain to protect them from the bombs.)

Like many of the camoufleurs, my father ended up teaching at the Royal College of Art – mainly because of the influence of one Robin Darwin, who, when the war was over and his job as Secretary of the Camouflage Unit had ended, became head of the RCA in 1948, and immediately employed all his old chums from the Camouflage Unit to be heads of various departments. Indeed, the father of the author of this marvellous book, Robert Goodden, became, under Robin Darwin’s influence, head of the Silversmithing and Jewellery Department at the Royal College of Art. 

During the war the most concentrated communities of artists and designers to be found anywhere in Britain were in camouflage units, and later it was these same artists who masterminded the Festival of Britain in 1951 and put British art and design on the international map in the austere postwar

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