|The Greatest 'Great Expectations'? David Lean's 1946 film|
It's easy to take the places chosen by artists, writers and film makers for granted. We think of them as settings - a backdrop to the action - yet a place is often integral to the story. Charles Dickens understood perfectly that a place - whether a marshy seashore or a tenement building - can hold tremendous power. Victorian London was a thriving modern city, yet we remember the corners Dickens made into fiction, drawing out the emotion attached to old, picturesque or terrifying streets. Much of his London was composed of relics of the previous century, the city that was rapidly disappearing as the one we know grew up.
|David Hockney, Looking at Woldgate Woods, 2006|
Dickens was rather different. He went in search of places and scenes that came with emotional resonance or topicality built in, and in books like 'Hard Times' he borrowed heavily from the dramatic newspaper reports of the day. It's interesting to compare his lifelong quest for captivating places to that of JMW Turner, an artist who travelled widely to find subject matter that captured the violent changes wrought by the steam age.
|JMW Turner, Snow Storm - Steam-boat off a Harbour Mouth, 1842, Tate|
|Paul Nash, Sudden Storm, 1918 (print from watercolour)|
In his watercolours, Ravilious focused almost exclusively on place, with figures appearing sometimes as part of the scene, and his career progressed he went further and further in search of inspiration. This quest for new subject matter took him around Britain and into northern France, and it forms the basis of 'Ravilious in Pictures: A Travelling Artist', the fourth volume in the series published by the Mainstone Press. There are some glorious paintings in the book, from pictures of Rye Harbour and Newhaven to watercolours of Capel-y-Ffin and the Welsh hills, and some wonderful stories.
|Eric Ravilious, Rye Harbour, 1938 - note Dickensian mudbank|
'Ravilious in Pictures: A Travelling Artist' will be published by the Mainstone Press in late Feb 2012.