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Outbreak of War: Camouflage and concealment

The outbreak of war in 1939 seemingly put on hold Charles Mozley’s career as an artist. He joined up as a sapper in the Royal Engineers, but was soon transferred to the Camouflage Unit led by Jack Beddington’s brother, Frederick, a fellow artist and, post war, a director of the renowned art gallery, Wildenstein & Co. Mozley spent two years working on camouflage objectives, and in those years he clearly wanted to make a greater contribution and sought to be appointed an official war artist. In 1941, the committee purchased a painting, which Sir Kenneth Clarke (then Director of the National Gallery) chose to include in the exhibition: ‘Britain at War’ at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mozley drew a book of cartoons entitled ‘Penny Plain and Tuppence Coloured’ depicting himself applying to be an official war artist. His application did not go ahead given his limited exhibiting history prior to the war, but that did not stop the acquisition of his paintings by the Committee, a number of which are held by the Imperial War Museum. Eileen, his wife, was working for The Ministry of Economic Warfare. Mozley’s powers of observation and camouflage skills were, however, recognised with his transfer in 1942 to Military Intelligence to work on, from the perspective of deception and concealment, the preparations for “Operation Overlord” and the D-Day Invasion in Normandy. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

On his return to civilian life at the beginning of 1946, Mozley seemed to start at the same time two, if not three, different careers in the field of art. As a teacher, he was asked to stand in for Edward Ardizzone at Camberwell School of Art while the latter went on an extensive trip to India. Here he was to meet two personalities who would become life-long friends, the typographer and calligrapher, Berthold Wolpe and the printer, Rowley Atterbury. However, he turned down the opportunity to join the new team being set up by Robin Darwin at the RCA. That year he also participated in an exhibition at The New English Art Club with a portrait in oils of his sister-in-law, Joan LaDell. The Victoria & Albert Museum commissioned him to design a lithographic cover of the catalogue for the Picasso and Matisse exhibition and the following year Peter Floud, Keeper at the V&A and responsible for the Circulation Department, asked him to design a lithograph poster for the major exhibition, ‘150 Years of Lithography’.

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