We were very fortunate last night to have a talk by Director of the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, David Dawson, about a current exhibition they are holding entitled Ravilious: Downland Man. The exhibition is curated by the fabulous James Russell, who many of you know via talks and exhibitions.
Last night we were treated to a highly illuminating talk, with many slides, particularly fascinating was some of the background information to paintings, and the fact that David had been out to photograph many of the places in Wiltshire that Ravilious had painted. It really made us feel that Ravilious had a great empathy for the chalk downlands, although he was really maybe a Sussex downland man at heart, having moved from London where he was born to Eastbourne. Ravilious went to Eastbourne School of Art and then the Royal College of Art where he met Paul Nash. He was influenced by landscape painters John Sell Cottman and Alexander Cozens.
During the talk, I took many photographs of the computer screen, hopefully these will give you an idea of the talk, it was also recorded, so you can watch a recording, the link is at the end of this post.
The landscape in the background as seen above was an important feature of the work, seen particularly clearly in the Morley College murals which were painted from 1928-30 with Edward Bawden. After the Royal College, Ravilious went back to Eastbourne where as a teacher he met Tirzah Garwood, and with the cheque from the Morley murals, was able to convince her father that he could provide for his daughter. Tirzah was a prolific artist, this is a wonderful example of her work, like Ravilious, she chose a train carriage and depicted a downland background including a chalk pit.
Sir Geoffrey Fry of Fry's chocolate lived at Oare House, just south of Pewsey for much of the twentieth century, he had extra wings added to the magnificent house by Clough Williams-Ellis, and commissioned Ravilious to visit and do some paintings.
But the most famous painting Ravilious produced at this time must be 'Strawberry Nets' painted with the most amazing precision in Oare House garden, David showed us the exact site where the strawberry beds were, now a compost heap!
I also like this painting very much, it's painted from the first floor of Oare House overlooking the garden and the downs can be seen in the distance.
There were Shell guides produced at this time to encourage people to buy petrol and drive around the countryside. It could have been that Ravilious wanted to be asked to produce paintings for one of the guides when he produced paintings such as the one below:
There were also illustrated books using lithography:
The war intervened and the embryonic book was lost for years, and found recently. The Wiltshire Museum bought the book in 2012 for £6000.
Many of you know that the end of the Ravilious story was sadly in Iceland in 1942 when the plane Ravilious was flying in disappeared almost with out trace. We had featured Ravilious talks by James Russell in the past, and visited the fabulous exhibition curated by him at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Please click here for links back to those blog posts recalling the events.
I also fortunately recorded the talk, so for the real thing, please click here.
Friends will visit this exhibition on 18 September at 11.30am, but of course you can visit at any time until 30 January 2022.