(1857 - 1942)
Philip Little was active/lived in Massachusetts. Philip Little is known for coastal-urban landscape painting, etching, camouflage art.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Philip Little contributed to camouflage during World War I. This is verified in the Boston Sunday Globe (September 9, 1917, p. 38) in a news article by (Globe art critic) A.J. Philpott titled IN CAMOUFLAGE WAR MAKING DECEPTION INTO A FINE ART. Near the end of the article is the following note:
Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.
"Philip Little, the Salem artist, who paints both landscapes and marines and who is one of the foremost painters in the country, recently experimented with camouflage on a boat with very remarkable success. It is men of his stamp who should be called on for service in this new emergency."
It is also confirmed by a passage in an unpublished and undated typescript by American artist and US Navy camoufleur Everett L. Warner ("Summary of Points to be Made in a General Lecture on Marine Camouflage") in which Warner mentions that two photographs of camouflage schemes, designed by Philip Little, were forwarded to him by the Boston Navy Yard on January 10, 1918.
At least one of Little’s proposals for ship camouflage was highly unusual, in that he proposed to hide a battleship by making it look like an island. His painting of this has survived and is now in the collection of the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). It is undated (but probably from 1917-1918) but it clearly bears the artist's signature and "Salem, Mass." It is titled 'Battleship camouflaged as 'An Island, followed by a note that reads: "Canvas screens painted appropriately would be used, as in some foreign service. Boston Navy Yard.”
The following year, Philip Little’s application of so-called “reverse camouflage" was featured in another news article. Titled THIS IS THE HOUSE THAT LITTLE DAUBED TO CATCH YOUR EYE AND SPARE CHANGE: Remarkable Example of the New Art of Reversed Camouflage, Now Aplash with Vivid Colors, on Boston Common as Aid to Liberty Loan Drive, the article was published in the Women’s Section of the Boston Sunday Post (October 13, 1918), p. 1. A portion of the article’s text reads as follows:
"Philip Little, the artist, is the originator of reverse camouflage. Some time ago he was asked by the Liberty Loan committee to suggest a design for a new Library Loan building for the [Boston] Common with an idea for the same to be camouflaged.
Mr. Little came forward with a new and startling scheme. He figured that since the committee wanted a building to attract all of the attention possible, camouflage, which primarily seeks to hide objects, was not what was really wanted, so he conceived the thought of reverse camouflage, and of having the building painted so that it would be the most striking thing in sight.
How well he succeeded can be by the Sunday Post's color photograph [published with the article] which has been reproduced according to the color that have been painted, or by a trip to the building itself.
It was planned to use the allied flags liberally for decoration of the building, but Mr. Little has utilized the color for the colors of his reverse camouflage only. They have been put on in the colors of red, blue, green, orange and black in great curving lines.
Throughout the scheme of decoration can be seen the colors of the five great allies in ever-varying combinations. No two designs are alike, yet it would puzzle one in many instances to describe their difference.
The entire Liberty Hall structure has been deluged with reverse camouflage in the wildest possible style. Inside and outside, Liberty Hall is a thing to look twice at. But with even one glance you can't forget it or evade its tenacious grasp upon your optical nerves.
Liberty Hall may not be a thing of beauty, but it is most certainly a joy to the eye and heart of those who care for bright color and bizarre effects.”
Submitted by Roy R. Behrens, author of Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009).
Philip Little (American, 1857-1942):
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
Philip Little was born in Swampscott, MA September 6, 1857 the son of James Lovell and Julia Agusta Cook. He attended M.I.T. intending to go into business until contracting Typhoid Fever (1875-1876). From 1877-1880 he attended Lowell School of Design at the Institute of Technology and worked in lithograph department of Forbes Lithograph Company of Boston. From 1881-1882 he and Frank W. Benson were students at Boston's Museum School and the following year he exhibited for the first time at the Boston Art Club (April-May) and married Lucretia Shephard Jackson. He married Caroline King on his 82nd birthday (1938).
Little and Benson lived at 2 Chestnut Street, Salem (MA) beginning in 1886, and they were neighbors in 1931. Little was influenced by the work of Frank W. Benson as much as Benson was of his impressionistic canvases and the two often painted outdoors together.
From 1887-1901, Little served in the Massachusetts National Guard attaining the rank of General with the Second Corps Cadets. Civic minded, Little was elected to the Salem Board of Aldermen (1892, 1893), was a member of the School Board (1898-1912) and the Essex Institute.
Little actively exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe and he maintained close ties to all the members of the Boston school of painting. His light-filled landscapes and scenes of New England harbors and wharves, Green Island (Sheepscot River), Maine storms and boating parties, trout streams and lobster fishermen are close in style to that of his life long friend Frank W. Benson. Art Critic A.J. Philpott called Little "one of the best landscape painters in America." (Boston Globe, 1919)
Little died in Salem on March 31, 1942. Frank Benson was a pall bearer at his funeral at Grace Church.
Solo exhibitions: Little at Rowlands Galleries, Boston (1909); R.I. School of Design (1909); Public Library of Ithaca (1909); Worcester Art Museum (1909); City Art Museum of St. Louis (1910, 1913); Society of Fine Art, Minneapolis (1910); Copley Society (1910); Colorado Springs Art Society (1913); Portland Maine Society of Art (1914); Sweat Memorial Art Museum (1914); Mussman Galleries, NYC (1920, 1928); Guild of Boston Artists (watercolors, 1924); Minneapolis Institute of Art (Memorial Exhibition, 1942); Arvest Gallery (Boston, 1976-1977) and more.
Memberships include: American Federation of Arts; Essex Institute (Curator of Art); Lowell Art Association; Union Club (Boston); Smasonic Order, Starr King Lodge; Artists Guild (Chicago), Guild of Boston Artists (founding member); Copley Society; National Arts Club; Portland AA (ME); Chicago Society of Etchers; Boston Society of Etchers; Brooklyn Society of Etchers; Boston Society of Watercolor Painters.
Awards: silver medal at the Panama-Pacific Expo., San Francisco (1915); California Society of Etchers (1935)
Public collections: Salem Shawmut Bank; Salem Savings Bank; Salem Hospital; Salem Public Library; Salem Y.M.C.A.; MFA, Boston; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Congressional Library; N.Y. Public Library; Carnegie Institute; PAFA; Minneapolis Art Institute; Minneapolis Society of F.A.; Walker Memorial Gallery; Bowdoin College; Colby College; Philadelphia Art Museum; R.I.S.D.; Coast Guard, Carnegie Institute; Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland, City Art Museum, St. Louis.
References: Arvest Galleries, Inc., "Philip Little, 1847-1972," exhibition catalogue, Boston, December 11, 1976-January 10, 1977; U.S. Directory and Year Book (S.R. Koehler, 1884); Who's Who in Art (1912 and 1942); Who's Who in New England (1913).
Submitted by historian Patricia Jobe Pierce
Share an image of the Artist firstname.lastname@example.org.