Posts Tagged ‘Ravilious’

Eric Ravilious May

May 3, 2016

Oh, I do love the works of Eric Ravilious. Yes, I prefer his water colours and particularly his Downland views, but I still have plenty of time for his woodcuts used as book illustrations. This is one of them.


This was another illustration for the 1938 edition of ‘The Natural History of Selborne’ by Gilbert White. It depicts a group of people sitting at a shelter around a large tree. A couple of men smoke long pipes and clouds scud across the sky.

It amazes me what can be achieved in just black and white. This is not the same as a black and white photo for these also use shades of grey – many more than 50 of them. Here we have either white or black and the artist has to come up with suitable textures.

Cunning stuff – and clearly this picture was chosen for May because it features a village maypole.

It’s good to report that maypoles still get used and here we see a maypole in use in my own village last year.


Eric Ravilious – April

April 16, 2016

The Sussex Trug

Art calendars are a good idea. Each new month reveals something new to explore and enjoy. The Ravilious calendar for this year is based on his woodcuts. Maybe that’s not a fashionable art form just now, but what fantastic work can be turned out – and being a wood cut, it can be repeatedly printed. Here we have the April photo I have been enjoying for a fortnight or so.


One could say this is an odd choice for April for we appear to be in the season of mellow fruitfulness and indeed this was Eric’s representation of autumn for a literary journal called the Cornhill Magazine. Our artist created this one in 1935.

I rather like the trugs that appear here. Yes they are universal, but some of us think of them as very much Sussex trugs. So here we see our Sussex trug with just a length of raffia in it.

image004This one was made by Thomas Smith of Herstmonceux.

image006 And yes, Herstmonceux, despite the foreign sounding name is in Sussex and is less than ten miles from Eastbourne where Ravilious had been a student. Trugs would surely have been familiar items in the Ravilious world.

Eric Ravilious – February

February 15, 2016

Time for a calendar picture from my lovely Eric Ravilious calendar for this year.

The 2016 calendar features woodcuts. I’m much more familiar with the watercolours, notably those of Sussex and Wiltshire but I have to admit a liking for these somewhat surreal black and white woodcuts. Here’s February.


Now that’s weird!

This was created for ‘Fifty-four Conceits’. This was a collection of epitaphs and epigrams compiled by Martin Armstrong with wood engravings by ‘Rav’. It was published in 1933. It sounds a Fascinating little book, but as it seems to be available for about £900 I don’t think I’ll be getting a copy.

The slightly moving point here is that this could have been attached to an epitaph for Ravilious himself since he died when his military plane crashed in the North Sea off Iceland.

A caption on the calendar reminds us that Eric studied under British surrealist painter Paul Nash who encouraged him to take up wood engraving. That could explain the surreal look in this image.


Eric Ravilious – wood engraver

January 18, 2015

There may be some relieved to know that my monthly look at the work of artist Eric Ravilious via the calendar I was given at Christmas 2013 is over. Others may be pleased to know I’ll still feature my favourite artist from time to time. You see I was given the book ‘Imagined Realities’ which was produced to accompany a Ravilious exhibition some years ago. The book was written and compiled by Alan Powers and was published by the Imperial War Museum. If this seems a surprise then remember that Eric was an official war artist in World War II – a role which led to his death in 1943 when the plane he was on crashed into the North Atlantic near Iceland in 1943.

But the book covers the full gamut of Eric’s work and today we’ll look at a wood engraving from 1925 when young Ravilious was just about 22.


This is clearly far removed from Eric’s watercolours but it is amazing how the essence of a scene can be captured in this way.

This image was called ‘Sussex Church’ – the artist wasn’t willing to precisely locate it. But I will. This is the artist view of Lullington Church, most of which had been destroyed by fire, probably in the seventeenth century.

Of course, Eric has been a little fanciful with trees but they add to the scene and frame the church very well.

Now it happens I have written a blog post about this church and that incorporated my grandfather’s photos taken in the 1920s. This is one of his photos


 or click here to see that blog.

Clearly Eric tidied up the ivy but his church has to be Lullington.

Eric Ravilious – December

December 31, 2014

I ought to be slightly disappointed by the December picture on my Eric Ravilious calendar for 2014. It portrays city life and I very much prefer the rural ways. I was a Londoner for three years – when I was a student and that’s probably a good time to be a Londoner.  But I couldn’t disagree more than I do with Samuel Johnson when he suggested that when a man is tired of London he is tired of life. My very different perspective is that a person who feels they need London to feel alive is leading a rather second rate life.

But I digress. And the truth is I love Eric’s portrayal of Piccadilly Circus which forms the picture for December.


This is one of the Ravilious images for Wedgwood. It is actually part of the ‘boat race’ series. Anyone who has read any of the P G Wodehouse books about Jeeves and Wooster will be aware that in times past the young bloods gathered in central London on boat race night and generally made whoopee, Our artist has given us a feel for this with his roof top and taxi top people, not to mention one chap sliding down the statue of Eros.

People are streaming on to the open topped bus, so perhaps the less inebriated are making their way home.

And so it becomes time to say farewell to the art works of Ravilious – except that I have one print permanently up and books full of others.

Eric Ravilious – November

November 30, 2014

I have been back in seventh heaven in November. My Eric Ravilious calendar has been showing me a chalk downland scene and one I am very familiar with.


This is not the much loved Sussex of my childhood.  This is the equally loved Wiltshire of my adult life. And I was last at the Westbury White Horse on October 1st when I took this picture.


What has changed since 1939, when Eric produced his painting, is that the horse has been concreted and painted. You no longer get the chalky streaks flowing off the hooves in rainy weather.

Of course, the trains have changed as well. From this viewpoint, but not where Eric has put his train, I managed to get two of the present day trains.


These are nearer in to Westbury.

I wanted a closer look at Eric’s train.


I should say that loco is stylised. It doesn’t look to be anything I’d have expected the Great Western Railway to have been operating in 1939. But it looks the part as it works hard with its mixed goods train.

What a lovely picture!

Eric Ravilious – October

October 31, 2014

In October I have been looking at a part of Eric’s life that I know least about. I have some familiarity with Ravilious of Sussex, the lover of chalk horses and old machinery.  I know about his work as a war artist which led to his early death when the plane he was in was lost. I know about his design work for crockery.

But his time in Essex is not really known about by me and so this October I have had a chance to discover more.

Here is the picture I have seen for the past month.


This picture is simply called ‘Village Street’ and was painted in 1936.

Eric had married his wife, Tirzah, in 1930 and for a while they lived with Edward Bawden and his wife at Great Barfield in Essex. The more permanent Ravilious home was in the village of Castle Hedingham and that is where this scene was painted. It is clearly ‘after a rain shower’. The road is wet and reflective, but the cyclists and the walker are without raincoats. The whole scene, as you might expect, is incredibly free from motor transport.

The scene is still recognisably the same today, nearly 80 years on, but these days, as is often the case, cars dominate the roadways.


I have discovered lots of really lovely Ravilious water colours painted in Essex. It isn’t a part of Essex I know. Maybe a visit is called for sometime.

Eric Ravilious – September

September 30, 2014

So what has my calendar had to show me this month?

Well to be honest it isn’t a favourite and it features a place I don’t know.


An unknown lady sits on a park bench. The park is on the edge of Eastbourne and is called Hampden Park. It is a pencil and watercolour piece of work and dates from quite early in Eric Ravilious’s all too short career – he produced this in 1928.

Eric lived in Eastbourne as a lad, and some of the time that was at Hampden Park. He attended school and art college in Eastbourne so this is very much his home.

I said I didn’t know Hampden park, but one bit of it was familiar to me. Guess what? It was the railway station.

Virtually all trains went there twice as they made their way between Lewes and Hastings. Eastbourne was down a short branch and as a major town it needed the express trains from London and the stopping services from Brighton. Hampden Park was on that branch and as a result got a fantastic service of trains to Eastbourne.

There was an avoiding line that allowed a rush hour train to miss Eastbourne and travel direct on to Hastings. It was always a treat to travel this rarely used mile or so of line. The track was not polished by frequent trains and when one did pass, it made awful grating noises. I find it hard to believe that the line was closed. It probably indicates the end of loco hauled goods trains in the area.

Over the month, I have learned to love that Ravilious picture and almost wish I had actually got off a train at the station to visit the park.

Eric Ravilious – April

April 29, 2014

During the month of April my calendar has been showing me a design that Eric Ravilious drew for use on Wedgwood china. I can’t say it is a real favourite of mine. It shows an urban scene and I am generally a person of the more rural areas. But it has been appropriate for April for it depicts the University Boat Race – Oxford against Cambridge.


Eric had, of course, found an interesting spot for his view with interesting boats on a slipway in the foreground. I believe he is showing Oxford leading by about half a length.

Of course, had something similar been done in 2014, then probably only one boat would have been in view for after the clash of the oars there was really only one boat in it.

This reminds us that Ravilious designed for all sorts of purposes. He didn’t just paint pictures.

January – Eric Ravilious

January 29, 2014

I have mentioned Eric Ravilious before on my blog. He was an artist. Before the Second World War he spent some time on the farm – the place my family camped in the 1950s and 60s. A number of his works of art featured places I came to know well. Not surprisingly, his depictions of the familiar became favourite pictures of mine. From that I came to a real appreciation of his style and he became a favourite artist. During World War Two Eric became an official war artist. Sadly a plane he was in crashed in the North Sea near Iceland. Ravilious was killed and his career came to an untimely end.

More recently his work seems to have reached a wider audience. Many books have been published and for 2014 there is a Ravilious Calendar. Before January is out, I thought I’d share the picture for the month – for yes, I was bought a calendar for Christmas 2013.


Eric called this ‘New Year’s Snow’. No specific location is given but I certainly don’t think it is the South Downs. The hills we see are too steep and too angular for the sumptuous curves we get on chalk land.

But it is, without doubt a typical Ravilious water colour. He produced it in 1935.

There could be more of these to come!