|Eric Ravilious, Newhaven Harbour, 1936|
I was in the happy position of having a couple of days to charge around the region, taking pictures for forthcoming talks about Paul Nash and Eric Ravilious. It's possible to get a bit obsessed about finding the settings for particular paintings, but it is interesting to see how an artist redesigns reality for a particular composition. Perhaps more important, though, is seeing what it is about a place that attracts artists - feeling the atmosphere and getting a sense of the light.
|Closed for the duration... West Pier, Newhaven|
|Giorgio de Chirico, Ariadne, 1913|
The sense of space was breathtaking and the light pearly - I could imagine that at dawn, with the sun rising over the sea and the cliffs of Beachy Head, Rav for one would have been in his element. The breakwater with its arches borrowed from a de Chirico painting has evidently been closed for some time, so one can't walk to the lighthouse at the end as Ravilious did in a storm in September 1935 (the night an old man was swept off the same pier to his death).
However the Hope Inn, where he and Bawden stayed several times, is going strong. I was wondering when it was transformed from traditional old pub into its groovy modern form, and a letter from EB to ER seems to pinpoint the date to 1936/7. With his usual waspish humour Bawden points out that the improvements are both to the layout of the pub, with a balcony now running in front of the bedrooms, and to the food: ‘Meals and service have brightened; gone are those soft, stale oyster-eyed eggs and there is is less water and more gravy with the meat’.
|Eric Ravilious, Beachy Head, 1939|
|Beachy Head... not for the faint-hearted|
It reminded me that, years ago, I visited Beachy Head with a friend who stood with his feet STICKING OUT over the edge of the cliff, while I cowered on all fours. There's something particularly daunting about those chalk cliffs, but what is it? The curving green hills that are cut off so abruptly? The stark white of the chalk? The sheer drop? Those white cliffs are scarier than the black granite of Pembrokeshire.
|Belle Tout... the moving lighthouse, now a hotel|
To be continued