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Raving about Ravilious

There has been much interest in the media about the work of British artist Eric Ravilious this year, with lots of press relating to the release of a biographical film ‘Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War’ by Margy Kinmoth. If you follow me on Instagram you might already have caught sight of this book on my ‘Stories’ section,’ Books I love’. However, as the ‘Stories’ feature on Instagram is only fleeting (and does not appear on the website Instagram feed), I thought you might like to find out a little more information on each of the books I feature, so I have introduced a longer version of ‘Books I Love’ as blog posts.

When I first discovered the work of Ravilious, I truly believed that he was solely a printmaker (as even his watercolours have the layering and mark-making qualities of a printed image). It was not until I looked through this book that I found he was a prolific watercolour artist too!

I have one of my lovely watercolour students to thank, for bringing this book to my attention, as I believe they purchased their own copy when it was first published (to accompany the exhibition ‘Ravilious’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2015). Upon seeing the book, I immediately sought my own copy as I had to own it!

I love to ‘unpick’ the work of other painters and enjoy trying to discover and understand their processes and techniques, so the idea of investigating his use of watercolour mark-making, pattern and layering was absolutely intriguing.

As you might recall, we painted a version of ‘The Windmill’ by Eric Ravilious in summer 2022. For many of you this might have been your first introduction to his work. From the feedback I received in class, I know many of you found his work to be intriguing. Some were drawn to his use of a cool, muted colour palette (which was very much of its time). Others found his watercolours intricate, complex and carefully composed (very much like his printed works). Many, found that the life of the man behind the paintings was most fascinating.

I was amazed, when I looked through this book, that many of his compositions seemed so familiar to me. Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that he lived in Sussex, where so much of the landscape has a similar feel. But more surprising to me was the familiarity of his subject matter, many scenes of which, I seem to own as photographs which I have taken over the years. Perhaps it is my fascination with the narrative of an abandoned piece of old farm machinery, that nostalgic feel of a steam train carriage, or that strange disquiet you feel looking at a room with an empty chair or perhaps a vast, stark landscape with no figuers which draws me in. Perhaps it is the graphic stylization of his illustrative techniques that appeals to my training as a Graphic Designer.

If you were drawn to his stylized portrayal of British life and you would like to see a comprehensive retrospective of his work, then you can’t go far wrong with this book. This large format book is 160 pages and contains full colour images, including many of his printed works, drawings and watercolours. You can see some of his commercial work and commissions, alongside his watercolour paintings and prints ~ many of which were scenic views taken from his surroundings where he lived and worked.

The book also offers a comprehensive selection of paintings completed whilst working as a war artist. This was sadly to be his final endeavour, as the aeroplane he was on during an air-sea rescue mission failed to return. On 2nd September 1942 Ravilious and the remainder of the crew were declared ‘lost at sea’.


Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78130-032-9

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