Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Introducing 'Ravilious in Pictures'

In a recent post about the catalogue for 'Ravilious' at Dulwich, a reviewer noted that there were perhaps some opportunities missed to discuss locations and other details relevant to particular paintings. This criticism may be valid but if you're looking for more in-depth discussion of individual Ravilious watercolours, don't despair!

Much of what I know about this elusive artist and his deceptively simple watercolours I learnt during the four years I spent working on the series 'Ravilious in Pictures' for the Mainstone Press. Actually there was never supposed to be a series. One book simply led to another, until we ended up with a trilogy of four books. Each is a kind of exhibition in book form, featuring twenty watercolours with accompanying essays, and a couple of other paintings for good measure.

The aim was to talk about Ravilious's work in ways suggested by the watercolours themselves, looking at social history and biography rather than art history per se. You can see a couple of sample essays here, and here.

When it came to writing the 'Ravilious' catalogue I naturally had different things to say, but the four books are well worth looking at if you've fallen under the spell of this alluring artist and want to know more about particular aspects of his work. All four books draw inspiration both from the paintings and from the artist's marvellous letters, as edited by his daughter Anne Ullmann, and published by the Fleece Press. The volumes and the paintings included are as follows:

Sussex and the Downs (a study of Ravilious's downland paintings, with reference to interwar social/landscape history, and some amusing interludes):
Firle Beacon, Furlongs, Interior at Furlongs, Waterwheel, Downs in Winter, Cement Works 2, Caravans, Chalk Paths, Greenhouse: Cyclamen and Tomatoes, Mount Caburn, Wiltshire Landscape, Beachy Head, Cuckmere Haven, Tea at Furlongs, The Wilmington Giant, The Westbury Horse, Train Landscape, Vale of the White Horse, Chalk Figure near Weymouth, The Cerne Giant.

The War Paintings (focusing on his wartime career, and the places and people he encountered - some proper history in here!):
Observation Post, Warship in Dry Dock, Ship's Screw on a Railway Truck, Dangerous Work at Low Tide, Barrage Balloons Outside a British Port, Norway 1940, HMS Glorious in the Arctic, Ark Royal in Action, Ward Room No1, Coastal Defences, Coastal Defences (2), No1 Map Corridor, Bombing the Channel Ports, Convoy Passing an Island, Morning on the Tarmac, RNAS Sick Bay Dundee, Spitfires at Sawbridgeworth, Corporal Stediford's Pigeon Loft, Runway Perspective, Hurricanes in Flight.

A Country Life (the most domestic of the books, exploring Eric and Tirzah's life in Essex):
Prospect from an Attic, Two Women in a Garden, The Attic Bedroom, Tractor, Garden Path, No.29 Bus, Back Gardens, Friesian Bull, The Brickyard, Hull's Mill, Butcher's Shop, Train Going Over a Bridge at Night, Halstead Road in Snow, Vicarage, Village Street, Salt Marsh, Late August Beach, Ironbridge Interior, Tree Trunk and Wheelbarrow, Ironbridge at Ewenbridge.

A Travelling Artist (following Rav's travels around Britain and beyond, in search of 'a good place'):
November 5th, Strawberry Nets, River Thames, Buoys and Grappling Hook, Channel Steamer Leaving Harbour, Newhaven Harbour, Greenwich Observatory, Wet Afternoon, Waterwheel, The Duke of Hereford's Knob, Geraniums and Carnations, Buscot Park, Room at the William the Conqueror, Lifeboat, Dungeness, Bristol Quay, Belle Tout Interior, Pilot Boat, Leaving Scapa Flow.

If you'd like to know more about any of the books, or their availability (I believe they're all in print as I write this), please get in touch via the email address on my Profile page, or visit The Mainstone Press. Thanks!


  1. 'A trilogy of four books' ? I am looking forward to seeing the exhibition.

  2. Yes, it started as one book, then became three... halfway through doing the third we realised that a fourth book was 'staring us in the face'. I'm equally proud of all four, for different reasons.

  3. I hope to catch the Dulwich exhibition later in the year. I did manage to see a wonderful exhibition called Image and Word at the MMU library which featured some of Ravilious's books and prints.

  4. They are all so brilliant. Sussex & The Downs I bought in the wonderful Martello Bookshop in Rye. I noticed on my last visit that it is no more.

  5. Thanks - wanted to get to MMU but sadly no time - sad to hear about Martello, Peter, but good to hear from you. Best, James