Norman Wilkinson (1876-1971)

Norman Wilkinson CBE RI (24 November 1878 – 30 May 1971) was a British artist who usually worked in oils, watercolors and drypoint. He was primarily a marine painter, but also an illustrator, poster artist, and wartime camoufleur. Wilkinson invented dazzle painting to protect merchant shipping during the First World War. Wilkinson was born in Cambridge, England, and attended school at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire and at St. Paul's Cathedral Choir School in London. His early artistic training occurred in the vicinity of Portsmouth and Cornwall, and at Southsea School of Art, where he was later a teacher as well. He also studied with seascape painter Louis Grier. While aged 21, he studied academic figure painting in Paris, but by then he was already interested in maritime subject matter. Wilkinson's career in illustration began in 1898, when his work was first accepted by The Illustrated London News, for which he then continued to work for many years, as well as for the Illustrated Mail. Throughout his life, he was a prolific poster artist, designing for the London and North Western Railway, the Southern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway. It was mostly owing to his fascination with the sea that he travelled extensively to such locations as Spain, Germany, Italy, Malta, Greece, Aden, the Bahamas, the United States, Canada and Brazil. He also competed in the art competitions at the 1928 and 1948 Summer Olympics. Wilkinson worked on camoflaging submarines in WWI with dazzle paint and in camoflaging airfields in WWII. 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. He was elected Honourable Marine Painter to the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1919. He was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Royal Society of Marine Artists, and the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1918 New Year Honours, and a Commander of the Order (CBE) in the 1948 Birthday Honours. Wilkinson's marine paintings are displayed in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the Fine Art Society, the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Abbey Gallery, the Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham, and the Beaux Arts Gallery. The Imperial War Museum has over 30 ship models painted in a variety of dazzle schemes by Wilkinson, mostly from 1917. He created a painting titled Plymouth Harbour for the first class smoking room of the RMS Titanic. The painting perished when the ship went down. He also created a comparable painting titled The Approach to the New World, which hung in the same location on the Titanic's sister ship, the RMS Olympic. This latter work is seen in the 1958 film A Night to Remember aboard the Titanic, due to the loss of Plymouth Harbour. A full-sized reproduction of Plymouth Harbour was later produced by Wilkinson's son Rodney based on a miniature copy found among his father's documents. This version appears in the 1997 film Titanic.