Dazzle-Ships in Drydock at Liverpool
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In this, his most famous painting, Wadsworth portrays a naval ship having “dazzle camouflage” painted onto it, a task that he himself undertook during the First World War. The complex pattern of intersecting shapes and lines was painted onto these ships in order to make it more difficult for enemy boats to estimate their speed and direction, making them a more difficult target for attack. Until its fading in 1915, Wadsworth had been heavily involved in the British Vorticist movement, which rejected traditional subject matter in favour of geometric designs. By painting these “Dazzle-Ships”, the artist has been able to incorporate the Vorticist style into the work. The geometrical influence of the Vorticists is seen not only on the boat, but in the repeated lines of the structure in which the vessel is docked. Even the painters at work have a bold striped pattern on their uniform. The limited colour palette used by Wadsworth (predominantly bright red, greys, black, and white) emphasises the patterns in the work. The whole painting is “dazzle camouflaged”.