Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Mackerel Sky: a Ravilious Rediscovered


Eric Ravilious, Mackerel Sky, 1938, private collection

This radiant watercolour was for many years thought to be missing, when it was in fact hanging quietly in a collector’s home. Like many of his contemporaries Ravilious was intrigued by ‘nautical style’, as John Piper put it, and often turned his gaze to lighthouses, boats and bathing machines. Here he contrasts the familiar shapes of fishing vessels with softly undulating mud. Hawsers and stays snake in and out of the picture, framing a distant wreck. Is this a reminder of mortality, or simply an interesting object that caught his eye?  

Mackerel Sky will be on show for the first time since 1939 at Hastings Contemporary, May 27 to Oct 30 2021, as part of my wide-ranging exhibition Seaside Modern: Art and Life on the Beach


  1. Does anybody know if smack CK14 was painted when Eric lived at Castle Headingham as the registration is Colne Creek and there are still quite a few at Brightlingsea and Mersea however the birth looks to Sandy for these places. Does anyone know the location where the inspiration for this gem was?

  2. James, Smack CK14 is a Colne Creek registration do you know if this was painted from studies of Smacks at Brightlingsea or West Mersea when he lived at Castle Hedngham or did it end up on the south coat when it had finished its working life?

    1. Thanks Andrew - I think it was painted in Tollesbury Essex in May 1938 - James