Prints by Eric Ravilious (1903 – 1942)
You can see his relentless cheerfulness – he whistled most of the time he wasn’t talking – in Eric Ravilious’s watercolours (virtually the only painting technique he used), particularly those of his beloved South Downs.
But look a little closer and you’ll see not folksiness but modernism. It is this combination of traditional middle-Englishness with a slightly harder edge that perhaps makes him so popular. He saw a warmth in southern England that the English themselves see but he also saw what was then the modern world. His landscapes frequently feature industrial buildings or vehicles. Becoming a war artist during the Second World War after service in the Observer Corps, he took his good humour into battle, finding some softness in explosions. Honorary Royal Marines Captain Ravilious also wanted to detail ordinary life in the military (but his request to paint the CO’s bicycle was turned down).
Born to antique dealing parents, he won a scholarship to Eastbourne School of Art when he was 16 and moved on to study at the Royal College of Art. He became a part-time art teacher at his alma maters as well as a full time artist, while also creating lithographs, engravings, murals and more. Look out for his designs on retro Wedgewood mugs, including the Alphabet mug and Boat Race cup.
Eric Ravilious quotes
On serving in the Observer Corps: “It is like a Boy’s Own Paper story, what with spies and passwords and all manner of nonsense.” On painting a furious sea battle off Norway: “I enjoyed it a lot, even the bombing which is wonderful fireworks.”
Eric Ravilious factoids
He died off the coast of Iceland in 1942. He went out with a rescue plane to find and paint a lost aircraft. He and the crew never returned. The bodies were not recovered.
His Wedgewood Coronation mug for the cancelled Edward VIII coronation was reworked for George VI’s and again for Elizabeth II’s.