Monday, 12 April 2010

Tirzah Ravilious and the Women of Bardfield

Tirzah Garwood, The Wife, 1929
 People who have delved a bit into the world of Eric Ravilious may know that his wife Tirzah, nee Garwood, not only tweaked one or two of his best-known paintings but was also a fine artist in her own right, and an excellent printmaker.

The range and energy of her work is impressive, particularly given that she abandoned printmaking after marrying Eric and devoted herself with great dedication to her children. Despite being widowed and fighting cancer she produced (and sold) marbled papers, paintings and relief works in paper.

She shared - and no doubt fuelled - Eric's fascination for toys and dollhouses, creating haunting interiors. She also shared the fate of many female artists, that of being overlooked by people fascinated by her famous husband's work.

The imminent publication of her diaries should shift the balance a little, since she was an outspoken, observant and energetic writer. So too will the exhibition currently showing at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, which features:

wood engravings, box constructions and paintings by Tirzah Ravilious, oils paintings and pots by Charlotte Bawden, and remarkable marbled papers by both artists, often working together at the kitchen table.

Sheila Robinson invented the cardboard cut and there are a number of these together with an unpublished book Seven Dancing Princesses. Lucy, the first wife of John Aldridge, was a rag rug maker and one of her pieces is on show together with a portrait of her at her work. Marianne Straub had a distinguished career in woven textiles and there are examples on display. Many people will have sat on her work while riding on London Transport's buses or Underground trains.