Friday, 12 January 2018

Eric Ravilious: The Lost Watercolours

Eric Ravilious, Fairey Battle, 1942

As you may have gathered, I'm currently putting together the catalogue raisonne (can't seem to do accents on this!) of Ravilious watercolours. This will form the basis of a book to be published in 2019, 'Eric Ravilious: The Complete Watercolours'. The aim is to include every known watercolour, and to that end I'm on a mission to find as many as possible of those that are missing. How do we know some are presently lost? In one or two cases pictures have actually been reported missing or destroyed. The photo of 'Fairey Battle' (above) appeared in a catalogue for an exhibition of war art shortly after World War II, but the painting itself was reportedly destroyed by fire in the 1960s.

Of course it's possible that the watercolour in fact escaped the fire - stranger things have happened - but this one is admittedly a bit of a long shot. Other works are no doubt hanging quietly on people's walls, having perhaps been inherited by people who may like the pictures without necessarily knowing much about them.

Eric Ravilious, Dredgers, 1934

Here's 'Dredgers', a watercolour that merited inclusion in a 1937 Studio magazine special devoted the medium. That was eighty years ago, so the picture has almost certainly changed hands since then. Was it sold through a dealer? Passed on to the original owner's children? Perhaps we'll find out.

Eric Ravilious, Attic Room, 1932

One watercolour that definitely did make it onto the wall of a commercial gallery was 'Attic Room', offered for sale in the 1980s by a London dealer. Judging from the black and white image, it stands somewhere between 'Apples and Walnuts' (Bristol City Art Gallery) and the wonderful 'Attic Bedroom', which hangs in the Fry.

And then there are pictures known only by brief descriptions, such as the 1936 Zwemmer Gallery piece described as a view of cows in a hollow of the Downs, or the watercolour 'Poultry', 'a study of a shed full of white leghorns...' These fragments and snippets are tantalizing, but being by nature absurdly optimistic I'm quite sure that the watercolours they refer to are out there, somewhere.

For more info on the catalogue raisonne project and forthcoming book, please visit the website of the Hedingham Press. Or if you'd like to get in touch please use this email address. All enquiries will of course be dealt with in the strictest confidence.

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