Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eric Ravilious

In the art world, £327 pounds is loose change. As a bookseller it's a sizeable chunk of my salary, but when I discovered that a limited edition print of Eric Ravilious' painting Chalk Paths was on sale, I had to buy it. This is a rare picture that succeeds in capturing both the spiritual and visual qualities of the South Downs and anyone who knows the area will recognise the dark greens and greys of the Sussex winter. Compare this picture with another depiction of the Downs:

Or this:

And it is the difference between art and illustration. Ravilious was arguably one of the greatest British artists of the inter-war years and if his life hadn't ended prematurely, I'm sure that he would be a household name (in Hampstead, at least).

I first discovered Eric Ravilious in the Towner Gallery at Eastbourne, where I went to see an exhibition of original Ladybird illustrations. As soon as I saw his paintings, I knew that I had found a kindred spirit and spent the next few years searching for anything I could find about Ravilious.

Today there is a growing Ravilious cult. He is one of those word-of-mouth figures (like Nick Drake 20 years ago) who has a devoted following and it is only a matter of time before he becomes as well-known as Paul Nash and Henry Moore.

To return to Chalk Paths, there is a piece of music that complements Ravilious' watercolour: the Pastoral Symphony by Alan Rawsthorne. If you play the last movement of the symphony and look at the painting, there is a striking sympatico between the two.


dovegreyreader said...

Steerforth, this was prudent purchasing indeed.I love Eric Ravilious and am still kicking myself at leaving a beautiful book about him on the stand at a book fair a while ago because it was a whopping £40 but I've thought about it so many times since.If I see it at the next one it's mine!

Jan said...

Hmm. Yes.
His name alone ( Eric Ravilious..)is a selling point.

Nowhere Girl said...

What a beautiful print. Well worth the sizeable chunk of one's salary.

Har-Even said...

I'm going down to Folkestone on Sunday to spend my pension on this eerie, atmospheric picture. I spent my infancy in the South Downs at Saltdean and seeing an illustration of this print in a magazine made me want to capture this image to relive my early childhood.

oz said...

The Ravilious Chalk Paths print is indeed a wonderful print. I've found that you can purchase it, and lots others by Ravilious, direct from the Publishers, Bookroom Art Press (on Google) for only £219.99. They also sell Edward Bawden prints who was Ravilious's friend and colleague.


Jamie said...

It is truely a wonderful piece of art and it is problably one of my most treasured possessions.

Does anyone know the location on the downs that inspired it?

martinr said...

I too love and own this picture.
The Towner are offering a tour of his locations in September but I have not been able to find any info about this so far.

My guess is that its the start of the path up to Mount Harry from Offham- but that's a fair walk from Furlongs .
I would like to know?

Steerforth said...

I would love to go on that walk. I'll have to find out more.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Ravilious a household name now? And personally, I'm beginning find the ubiquitous reproductions of his work pretty tedious. The Stanley Badmin oil of a snowy downland scene is a lovely thing - now there is a charming, original thing

Steerforth said...

I presume that this contrarian response is for humour purposes.

Anonymous said...

Ravillious' work could never ever be described as tedious. Highly original and full of emotion.