Published by The Mainstone Press: order from your local bookshop!

Mermaid endpapers designed by Webb & Webb


Of all the artworks created during World War Two, none is quite like the series of ten lithographs made by Eric Ravilious during the dark winter of 1940/41. Rare was the artist who descended into the depths to portray the gloomy, cramped interior of a naval submarine, yet it is not just the subject matter that makes the Submarine Series so powerful; the medium too is extraordinary. One of the most difficult and demanding of the printmaker’s arts, auto-lithography enjoyed a golden period in Europe between the wars, and in Britain this series represents a pinnacle of achievement.

The aim of Ravilious: Submarine being to celebrate the creation of this remarkable series of prints, we will begin with a brief sketch of the artist himself. Next we explore the sequence of events that gave us Ravilious the lithographer, a story that introduces Soviet revolutionaries in Moscow, Russian émigrés in Paris, Jewish immigrants in East London and a host of visionary printers, publishers and designers. Illustrated with vibrant, rarely seen examples of a craft that deserves far greater recognition, this history leads us into the heart of our narrative, the fascinating story of how the lithographs in the Submarine Series came to be made. 

Drawing on the artist’s correspondence, we recount his experiences as a war artist and describe the long and difficult journey that took him eventually to the print works of W.S. Cowell in Ipswich. Alongside this text you will find a selection of the artist’s exquisite preparatory drawings, which are reproduced here for the first time. Including both watercolours of submarine interiors and drawings made for a proposed children’s colouring book, these are not just part of a process but works of art in their own right, which offer a different vision of life aboard a wartime submarine. Following this richly illustrated Introduction, we present the ten lithographs in the Submarine Series, each one accompanied by a short descriptive essay which will explore the scene depicted, introducing people and giving insights into the strange, dangerous life of a submariner during World War Two.

Illustrations from 'Post', a Russian lithographed picture book owned by Ravilious.

Lithographs by Rav's good friend, Barnett Freedman (L), & the amazing Pearl Binder (R)

We printed the Submarine Lithos full-bleed, as they would have appeared in a proposed colouring book.

The colours & textures in this lithograph are gorgeous.

I love details like this...


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