Thursday, 18 August 2016

'Century' at Jerwood: Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious, Rye Harbour, 1938 (Ingram Collection)

Like many other small ports and seaside towns, Rye Harbour enjoyed a boom in popularity among artists in the 1930s. Alongside the widespread interest in landscape painting was a related vogue for nautical style; both phenomena grew out of a renewed fascination for British places and customs, inspired partly by the new hobby of motor-touring. John Piper was both the author of an influential magazine feature on nautical style and an occasional visitor to Rye Harbour, and he probably suggested Ravilious visit the port.

There he met Edward Le Bas, a wealthy artist (who was elected to the RA in 1954) and collector who had a house nearby. Though much younger than them, he had become a great champion of the Camden Town Group, particularly Harold Gilman and Charles Ginner, and also had a formidable collection featuring Edouard Vuillard, whose paintings his own work emulated.

He bought this painting on the spot, drawn perhaps to the wonderful representation of light on water and the sense of distance melting into nothingness.

This is an excerpt from 'Ravilious' (Philip Wilson Publishers, 2015). 'Rye Harbour' will be featured in 'Century', an exhibition of work by 100 modern British artists that I have selected from the Jerwood Collection and Ingram Collection. It opens at Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, in October.