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Everybody Razzle Dazzle

2 February 2015 by Lucy

Image of Sir Peter Blake

Sir Peter Blake, seen here in his studio

We are really excited to be involved in a new project announced today, to ‘dazzle’ one of the Mersey Ferries, and even more so because it involves Sir Peter Blake.

Peter Blake is perhaps most famous for designing the cover of The Beatles’ album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (1967). However, he has been a prolific artist during his career and his status in the art world far exceeds Sgt. Pepper’s.

Sir Peter is a leading figure in the development of British pop art, and became the first Patron of the John Moores Painting Prize – held every two years at the Walker Art Gallery – in 2011. 

His latest commission is to design the artwork for Snowdrop, one of the Mersey Ferries, which will be seen on the river from Spring 2015 until the end of 2016, as it continues its commuter service, River Explorer and Manchester Ship Canal trips. In fact, this is the first Dazzle Ship commission using a working vessel.

It is the third in the series of Dazzle Ship commissions from Liverpool Biennial, 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Tate Liverpool, and we continue our involvement following the painting of our ship last year, the Edmund Gardner, for Carlos Cruz-Diez’s design ‘Induction Chromatique à Double Fréquence pour l’Edmund Gardner Ship / Liverpool. Paris 2014’.

Sir Peter’s design entitled ‘Everybody Razzle Dazzle’ will cover Snowdrop, and is highly evocative of Sir Peter’s signature pop art style, based on his use of and interest in colour, monochrome and shape.

On-board there will be an exhibition that we have co-curated with Tate Liverpool where visitors can learn more about the history of dazzle and the role that the Mersey Ferries took in the First World War.

Brightly coloured stars, stripes, targets and checks

Design motifs from Sir Peter Blake’s ‘Everybody Razzle Dazzle’, 2015.

Unlike other forms of camouflage, dazzle works not by concealing but by baffling the eye, making it difficult to estimate a target’s range, speed and direction. Artist Norman Wilkinson, has been credited with inventing the technique, explaining that dazzle was intended primarily to mislead the enemy; each ship’s dazzle pattern, realised in monochrome and colour, was unique in order to avoid making classes of ships instantly recognisable to enemy U-boats and aircraft.

It was Edward Wadsworth, an Intelligence Officer for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the First World War, who supervised the painting of more than two thousand British ships in ‘dazzle camouflage’ in Bristol and Liverpool. This experience inspired him to produce the series of woodcut prints that are now part of the Walker Art Gallery’s collections.

It’s great to be working with Sir Peter Blake again, and even more interesting to discover that his links to Liverpool don’t just extend to being a John Moores Prize Winner! He actually first visited the city during his National Service with the RAF (1951 – 53). His training required that he travel to Belfast, so he sailed by ferry from Liverpool’s iconic waterfront.

Everybody Razzle Dazzle 2015 is co-commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions and Tate Liverpool in partnership with Merseytravel, who own and operate Mersey Ferries, and National Museums Liverpool (Merseyside Maritime Museum). Supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Department for Culture Media and Sport.

  1. Tony Mac says:

    Great idea which was a winner in the wars at sea ,we will not forget all seafarer lost at sea . I will be booking that trip up the canal. I just wonder if we have any records of ferrys from Liverpool to Belfast in or around 1911/12 and any Titanic conections.

  2. James Renfrew Dodge says:

    Norman Wilkinson also worked with several Americans to develop dazzle ship patterns. Lindon Bates of New York City chaired a commission that Mr. Wilkinson served on. Mr. Bates son was lost on the Lusitania.

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