Thursday, 23 May 2013

Eye 85, Russian Picture Books & 'Ravilious: Submarine'

Cover of 'Hunting' by Vladimir Lebedev, 1925
I was very excited to come home last night and find a copy of Eye 85 waiting for me - my phone is unwell so I can't post photos of it just yet. For readers not involved in the heady world of graphic design, Eye is a beautifully crafted, eclectic, entertaining magazine aimed primarily at inhabitants of that world. It says something both for the vision of editor John Walters and for the level of interest in 20th century illustration and design that I was commissioned to write something on lithographed children's books for this issue: you'll find 'Puffins on the Plate' on page 62, with an online extract here.

Vladimir Lebedev, Yesterday and Today, 1928
The feature looks great, with the gorgeous old Russian and French books shown by art director Simon Esterson as the time-worn artifacts they are - Clare Walters' related feature on wordless children's books is also beautifully laid out. What readers of Eye might not grasp is that my article is based on research I carried out for my latest book, 'Ravilious: Submarine', the first half of which is devoted to the history of 20th century artist lithography, or auto-lithography, and in particular its use in the production of children's books.

Barnett Freedman, Advert for Baynard Press 
'Ravilious: Submarine' features work by Nathalie Parain, Feodor Rojankovsky and Vladimir Lebedev as well as lovely illustrations made by Barnett Freedman, Pearl Binder, Edward Bawden, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Helen Binyon and others - the pictures in this post are all included. One of the main aims of the book is to show how Ravilious came to make lithographs, and it became very clear as Tim and I were working on the book that he was part of a widespread and energetic movement.

Pearl Binder, A Restaurant in Brick Lane, 1932 
Thanks to left-leaning friends like Peggy Angus, Ravilious knew about the children's books pioneered in the early days of Soviet Russia, and owned several titles; as soon as he tried lithography for himself he was hooked. Finding a kindred spirit in publisher Noel Carrington he transformed 'High Street' from a book of wood engravings (as was first intended) into a dazzling collection of lithographed shop fronts and interiors; Ravilious started work on a Puffin Picture Book  but was lost in action before he could turn his glorious watercolours of chalk figures into a lithographed book. He did, however, create the beautiful Submarine Series, which is reproduced in full in the book, alongside some lovely preparatory drawings.

Eric Ravilious, Submarine Dream, 1941
The pictures in this post are taken from 'Ravilious: Submarine', published by The Mainstone Press. Copyright remains with the artist's estates.