In World War One, ships were frequently dazzle-painted-- painted all over with crazy lines and stripes, which served to confuse their locations and outlines to enemy submarines and ships in the days before radar. These were not only black and white, as they appear in these photos-- shades of blue and acquamarine alternated with grey and black (as in this terrific painting by Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer). Even at the time observers noted how harbours ended up looking like a floating modernist art show! Fascinating and beautiful... why don't we bring dazzle paint back? :)
Note: some of the very best dazzle paint photographs I found were unavailable for free use by me; if you are interested, dozens more are here.
Gunboat H.M.S. Kildangan. Source
HMAS Borda. Source
Liner turned troopship HMS Aquitania. Source
HMS Argus, the first British aircraft carrier. Source
Minelayer USS Shawmut, left, being surronded by a smokescreen by the HMS Vampire. Source
HMAS Melbourne. Source
HMAS Kanimbla, WWII. Source
French cruiser FFS Gloire. Source
The Mauretania. Source
HMS Nairana. Source
A brilliant London Transport poster for the Imperial War Museum, 1936, by Edward Wadsworth. Source
Based on this amazing painting.