Norman Wilkinson (1896)

Posted by Berkhamsted Admin on 17 Nov 2023

Modified by Berkhamsted Admin on 22 Nov 2023

Norman Wilkinson

Norman Wilkinson CBE RI (24 November 1878 – 30 May 1971) was a British artist.  He was primarily a marine painter, but also an illustrator, poster artist, and wartime camoufleur. Dazzle painting was invented by Wilkinson as a way of protecting merchant shipping during the First World War.

Wilkinson's career in illustration began in 1898, when his work was first accepted by The Illustrated London News, working for them for many years. He also worked for the Illustrated Mail. A prolific poster artist; he designed for the London and North Western Railway, the Southern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

During the First World War, whilst serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, he was assigned to submarine patrols.  In April 1917, German submarines (called U-boats) achieved unprecedented success in torpedo attacks on British ships. Wilkinson decided that, since it was all but impossible to hide a ship on the ocean, a far more productive question would be: how can a ship be made to be more difficult to aim at from a distance through a periscope? In his own words, he decided that a ship should be painted "not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as to the course on which she was heading".

During the Second World War, Wilkinson was again assigned to camouflage, his primary responsibility was the concealment of airfields.

Wilkinson was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) in 1906, and became its President in 1936, an office he held until 1963. Elected Honourable Marine Painter to the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1919, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1918 New Year Honours list and a Commander of the Order (CBE) in the 1948 Birthday Honours.


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