Wednesday 6 March 2013

A Lost Ravilious Mural

Eric Ravilious, Life in a Boarding House, from 'Ravilious: Submarine'
Given the ongoing interest in 20th century British murals I thought it would be fun to post a rare image of one of the lost murals of the period. This was one of a series of pictures painted by Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden in the refectory at Morley College for Working Men and Women, a centre for adult education across the river from Westminster. The murals were designed to offer things 'interesting to look at and intriguing to unravel for people sitting scattered about the room'.

The college, which had been founded in the previous century, had close links with the the Old Vic Theatre, so the murals had for the most part a theatrical theme. Bawden painted scenes from 'King Lear', 'The Tempest', 'As You Like It' and 'Romeo and Juliet', while Ravilious contributed scenes from Marlowe's 'Tragedy of Dr Faustus', with the Seven Sins floating down from the beams. There were pictures from Miracle Plays and obscure Elizabethan drama, interspersed with figures and symbols: a quartet of winds, a group of Harlequin figures and so on. His chief model was his former student, soon-to-be wife and future collaborator, Tirzah Garwood.

Ravilious and Bawden pose for the cameras
In February 1930 (after two years' work) the murals were officially opened by former (and future) Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. He was evidently impressed, observing that 'the one thing he felt was that the works were conceived in happiness and in joy, and the execution gave real pleasure to the artists. It was only in that spirit that any creative work could be done that was going to give pleasure to other people.'

Morley College is still going strong more than 80 years later, but the murals were destroyed when the refectory was hit by a bomb during the Blitz. Bawden subsequently returned to paint a new set of pictures, and these can be seen today.

'Life in a Boarding House' is one of many rare and unusual images featured in 'Ravilious: Submarine', published by The Mainstone Press.


K.M.Lockwood said...

Delightful - wretched Luftwaffe destroying them. I spotted a Long Man of Wilmington!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Such a nice 'skinny, English, tweedy' quality to his work.

Unknown said...

Amazing work I must say!

Mural Artists

Unknown said...

Stunning - to have the luxury of so much time - and talent!

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