This is a preprint
Seeing through Camouflage: Abbott Thayer, Background-Picturing and the Use of Cut-Out Silhouettes

In the first decade of the twentieth century, while researching protective coloration in nature, artist-naturalist Abbott H. Thayer (1849–1921), working with his son, Gerald H. Thayer (1883–1939), hypothesized a kind of camouflage that he called “background-picturing.” It was his contention that, in many animals, the patterns on their bodies make it seem as if one could “see through” them, as if they were transparent. This essay revisits that concept, Thayer’s descriptions and demonstrations of it, and compares it to current computer-based practices of replacing gaps in images with “content-aware” digital patches