Tuesday, 13 January 2015

RAVILIOUS at Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eric Ravilious, The Westbury Horse, 1939, Towner
Exciting news for fans of Eric Ravilious. Following smaller exhibitions at Towner (2010), the Fry Art Gallery (2011) and RWA Bristol (2012), Dulwich Picture Gallery is hosting the first major London show since the 2003 centenary exhibition. Opening in April, the Dulwich show will be the first big museum exhibition to focus specifically on the artist's watercolours. 

As curator, I've tried to balance well-known paintings like 'Train Landscape' and 'Tea at Furlongs' with watercolours that will be new to most people. People who have read my books or heard me lecture will know that I tend to be fairly down to earth in my approach; the first aim of the Dulwich exhibition is simply to show the best selection of available paintings, giving people an opportunity to see 'in the flesh' pictures they may already know from books and prints. 

Eric Ravilious, Dangerous Work at Low Tide, 1940, MoD Art Collection
I decided early on to arrange the paintings by theme, rather than in date order. That way we can break down the barrier between Rav's peacetime work and his career as a war artist, and look at the wartime pictures not as a separate group but as an integral part of the whole. 'Dangerous Work at Low Tide' may depict a military operation in early 1940, but it is also a study of dawn's early light that fits alongside peacetime paintings of similar subjects. Ravilious was limited in his choice of subjects during the war, but he retained his enthusiasm for enigmatic interiors and unusual perspectives.

Dulwich is perfect for this exhibition, which continues the venerable museum's series of shows devoted to 20th century British artists: John Piper, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Paul Nash... not to mention David Haycock's 'A Crisis of Brilliance'.

I was there recently and had a look round the Emily Carr exhibition. Having known little about this Canadian artist I enjoyed her work very much. Her skies are really something, and I love the way she painted and drew forest trees. She reminds me a little of Georgia O'Keeffe, but her pictures seem more instinctive, more immediately expressive. I'll be going along for another look before the exhibition ends in early March

'Ravilious' opens next, on 2 April 2015. 



  1. Andrea Peace13 January, 2015

    You have made my day James - we live fairly close to Dulwich and we were there on Sunday to see the wonderful Emily Carr exhibition - I found her work very moving. So to then hear they are hosting an Eric Ravilious exhibition was just fantastic - thanks for the heads up! Hope you will be visiting and maybe speaking at an event?

  2. Stephen Barker14 January, 2015

    I look forward to seeing the exhibition.