A Journey of London Transport with Eric Ravilious

Part of the particular charm of Eric Ravilious’s work is that it is everywhere, I don’t mean on t-towels or mugs, (though regrettably we are at that stage now) it is that his pictures cover scenes that can be found all over Britain. There are many examples where his watercolours could fool you to be a country road you know and pass, until you find it was painted in deepest darkest Sussex and not Northern Essex.

It would surprise no-one then that most of the works he illustrated for London Transport didn’t feature London. The woodcuts made for press adverts and later used on booklets were mostly views from Essex and the village he lived in, Castle Hedingham.

Ravilious and his new wife, the artist and diarist, Tirzah (née Garwood) moved to Bank House in the village in October 1934. It was around the same time that he started an affair with Helen Binyon from 1934-37 – there are a mass of letters between the two to help the writing of this post.

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 Eric Ravilious – Back Gardens, Castle Hedingham

Green Line Coaches Limited was formed on 9th July 1930 by the London General Omnibus Company, to offer coach services from London to towns up to 30 miles away, comprising 60 vehicles on eight routes. London Transport took the company over in 1933 but kept the name the Green Line.

It was via the Curwen Press that Ravilious was asked to make illustrations for London Transport and the Green Line. They wanted a simple, long, thin wood-engraving. This started a series of wood-engravings that Ravilious would produce for other areas of London Transport.

The order was commissioned on the 20th March 1935. In a letter to Helen Binyon ten days later, Ravilious wrote:

30th March 1935
Green Line Buses would like an advertisement for the Essex scenery – some long narrow engravings, so this job will help to pass the time pleasantly next week. I wish commercial work was all so straightforward so much becomes a compromise between the client’s ideas and what the printer thinks about it and always a hurry for results. These engravings will be fun to do I think. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Green Line Coach Adverts, 1935

Below is the advert from the original newspaper-sheet, with the news of the day surrounding it. Rather like many adverts of the time there is a quote and a hint at tourism; ‘What hast though to say of Paradise Found?’ and then some information on John

Milton’s home where he completed Paradise Lost.

These remind me of the adverts for Shell Edward Bawden was illustrating at the same time, only these Green Line adverts have a lack of humour in favour of fact. The typography is spot on with dishing out the information, very simple and no fuss. Starting point, times and fares and return journeys, I wish more timetables were like this now.

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 Eric Ravilious – Advert and wood-engraving in a newspaper, 1935. 

Ravilious was very busy at this point in his life, so it will surprise no-one that he was a great re-cycler of his own work, woodcuts for paid trade work became watercolours for his own exhibitions.

Time would also effect the travelling he could do, so other examples of Ravilious using his local area can be seen by the multi-named Hull’s Mill – Hovis Mill – Maplestead Mill, found in the next village to Castle Hedingham, Sible Hedingham. He would use the building from every angle for a variety of adverts for London Transport from 1935-36.

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 Eric Ravilious – Hull’s Mill, 1935

In Ravilious’s time the building was known locally as Hull’s Mill but in 1917 it was bought by Hovis who ran it til 1957 and sold it in 1959. Recently, although always considered a part of Sible Hedingham the mill is over the parish line on the Great Maplestead side of the river and is known as Maplestead Mill, located next to Hull’s Farm.

Mechanically it was driven by a water wheel, then after the First World War it was converted to be powered by a turbine and a gas engine and the water mill removed. With the water wheel removed in the painting above you can see the exhaust stack for the turbine and gas apparatus.

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 Emilie Montgomery Gardner – Hull’s Mill, 1952

Below is the design for the print that Ravilious made of Hull’s Mill, annoying (especially if you are trying to research this) this block is named Hovis Mill, maybe to differentiate it from the watercolour above. It is a larger woodblock for Ravilious and this maybe why he engraved the mill in triptych style. In a letter to Helen Binyon Eric notes:

8 November 1935
…The block is much too big. It is one I happened to have so feel I should use it all. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Design in Pencil for Hovis Mill, 1935

In another letter to Helen Binyon Ravilious writes:

The Mill drawings are going fairly well and may finish themselves one day. It is an extraordinarily attractive place – a bit like this. 

Ravilious illustrated this letter to Binyon and a drawing of the mill and last part of the letter are pictured below.

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 Eric Ravilious – Design on part of a letter to Helen Binyon, 1935

When living at Brick House with Edward and Charlotte Bawden, Tirzah’s uncle made Eric and her a canoe, it maybe why Eric put one in the Hovis woodcut below. The Paddle can be see in the painting The Attic Bedroom, Brick House. The river behind Hull’s Mill is also one of the widest parts of river in the area, being cut wider from when the Mill had a water wheel, and still is free from weeds.

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 Eric Ravilious – The Attic Bedroom, Brick House, 1934

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 Eric Ravilious – Hovis Mill, 1935

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 A set of views of the Mill today, 2018

Ravilious would go on to cut the mill in another block using the same design again, this time without the canoe as in the Hovis wood-engraving, but with the horse grazing in the field like the above letter to Binyon. In this wood-engraving this time called Pony by a Mill. Below is the study for his wood-block design, squared off and ready for engraving.

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 Eric Ravilious – Drawing for Pony by a Mill wood-block, 1936

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows / Pony by a Mill, 1936

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 Cover for Country Walks, 2nd Series with a Ravilious Design of Pony by a Mill.

Above is the print Pony by a Mill with the edges chamfered off in use on one of the London Transport booklets, originally printed in 1936. The 3rd series would also feature the Two Cows wood engraving below.

The Country Walk books were by Charles White and printed for London Transport to show people the possibilities of using the train and bus network. Inside they had maps and planned walks showing how to get to the locations and the sights one might see.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows / Pony by a Mill, 1936

The two images were engraved on the same block of wood and printed together as one proof. On the left a cow and a bull in a field, separated by a stone wall.

Below is the original drawing on tracing paper for Two Cows, reversed in design as a woodblock always prints backwards.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows, preliminary study for a woodcut, 1936

The pencil design and wood-engraving again would be re-cycled into another watercolour, Two Cows. Here keeping the study of a cow in the same pose, now doubled in pose, but this time with the perspective of a barn door to fix the eyes attention.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Cows, 1936, The Fry Gallery

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 1936 cover to Country Walks, 3rd Series with a Ravilious Design of Two Cows.

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 Eric Ravilious – Vicarage in Winter, 1935

Another work with the creativity sparked in Castle Hedingham is the Vicarage in Winter started in the Winter of 1935. Tirzah writes in her diary that Eric’s paint had frozen on the brush and some days later Eric wrote to Helen Binyon:

The snow picture is finished and not bad – rather pretty but so was the thing, like a Christmas card.

This water colour takes us back to the Green Line illustrations and in 1936 Ravilious used the cottage to the right in Vicarage in Winter for one of his wood-engravings for London Transport. According to Barry Kitts:

Ravilious has transformed the slates on the Essex cottage – into thatch. 

The woman cutting the hedge with the path leading up to a V shaped Sussex style stile are pictured – but it is the wall and hedge in Vicarage in Winter that bind them together as the same location.

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 Eric Ravilious – Cutting The Hedge, 1936

The V Stile also appeared in the Kynoch Press Notebook for 1933. The the stile is on the page for the 8th May but its technical name is Block 121. The Notebook has 42 engraved vignettes of rural life.

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 Eric Ravilious – Kynoch Press Block 121, 1932

Below is the press advert, the text in the advert talks of the clean breeze of the downs and how you can see Lions at Whipsnade Zoo.

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 Eric Ravilious – Cutting The Hedge as part of a Green Line Advert, 1936

Another design is the Suburban Home with the man in top hat and umbrella standing in the doorway, much like the men are in the watercolour of Hull’s Mill.

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 Eric Ravilious – Suburban Home, 1936

The house turns out to be the Old Vicarage in Castle Hedingham, the same in Vicarage in Winter, 1935. The steps, the ionic colonnaded door and the window above all say so – it isn’t a fact I have seen in print before. Below is the engraving in the advert as it would appear in the press.

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 The Old Vicarage in Castle Hedingham as it is now.

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 Eric Ravilious – Suburban Home as part of a Newspaper advert, 1936

With the Two Swans as others, a watercolour followed like the Two Cows watercolour, though the figures are similar, they have no relation to the backgrounds of each other.

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Swans, 1936

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 Eric Ravilious – Two Swans, 1936

The Shepard is one of the most lively engravings that Ravilious made for London Transport. The Sheep and their ears with the hillside up to the house are pleasing. The technicality of the halftone shading are some of his best.

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 Eric Ravilious – The Shepard, 1936

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 Eric Ravilious – The Shepard as part of a Green Line Advert, 1936

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 Eric Ravilious – Tea in the Garden, 1936

The last stop on these London Underground travels is of Tea in the Garden. It is a rather abstract design but it was the start of the commuter lifestyle as London was building a new wave of suburbia and you can imagine the print being used with slogans like “home in time for tea” or “enjoy the garden, 20 mins from the city by bus”.

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 Eric Ravilious – Sketch for Tea in the Garden, 1936

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 Eric Ravilious – Tea in the Garden as part of a Green Line Advert, 1936

Soon after Ravilious reused the design for a commission with Wedgwood, he was so busy during this point that many designs were recycled from wood engravings to watercolours or china. Below you can see a sketch drawing for a teapot design using the woodblock above. Carving out the legs of the bench and inverting the colours of the table so when printed the transfer will be black and an enamel colour wash painted over.

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 Eric Ravilious – Sketched idea for Teapot design, 1938

The finished design below, with the colouring in yellow, blue and green. The design has been made simpler and the shading is able to be more subtle as it will be printed on a metal plate, so there is more detail in the halftone lines. It was first used on a preserve jar for Wedgwood.

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 Eric Ravilious – Printed and Enamelled design from Wedgwood, 1938

The preserve jar was introduced six months in advance of the rest of the pattern. The design was advertised in 1939 as being available also in breakfast and coffee sets; the war prevented production of these. At first unnamed, later called ‘Teaset’, the design was finally named ‘Afternoon Tea’.

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 Eric Ravilious – The Final Jampot by Wedgwood using Ravilious’s Design, 1938

Ravilious – Engravings by Jeremy Greenwood, Wood Lea Press, 2008.
Ravilious & Wedgwood by Robert Harling, 1995.
Away We Go by Oliver Green and Alan Powers, 2006 
 Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist by Helen Binyon, 1983
Ravilious: The Watercolours by James Russell, 2015

The Ravilious Plate

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One of the items I own is an original engraving plate for Wedgwood by Eric Ravilious. I bought it as I like the social history of printed china, not only of Wedgwood, but when artists would design domestic tableware. Being a printing plate it is as close to the original drawings by the artist, but very few have survived (maybe ten) and most of them were melted down after the production ended.

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 Metal engraved plate with the Ravilous design for ‘Garden’. From my collection.

Below is a printing taken from the plate, printed in black on to white paper.

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‘Garden’, the most elaborate of the designs (comprising a border, then vignettes and many smaller details from these), appears in the Wedgwood estimate books between November 1938 and May 1939. ‘Speaking for myself,’ Tom Wedgwood wrote acknowledging the receipt of some drawings, ‘I am delighted with them, particularly the Garden pattern; you must have put in a tremendous lot of work on these patterns since you were down here, and I do think you are to be congratulated on the result. 

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 Detail: A collage of pieces making the finished plate by Ravilious.

The garden series had various vignette designs for the china pieces. Ravilious would paint them in with watercolour, pen and pencil.

Below I have put more information from the Wedgwood guide to how the factory produced, printed and made the ceramics with the metal plates. ‡

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The Engraver:
A pattern which is designed for reproduction by printing is first drawn to fit the curves of the various pieces of ware (china) to the width it will be applied. It is then engraved either on a flat copper plate or on a copper cylinder. This is done with a sharp pointed tool called a “graver”. Light and shade effects are obtained by minutely graduated punched dots. This craftsmanship calls for the highest degree of skill which can only be acquired after many years of experience.

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The Printer:
Prints can be taken of flat copper plates by hand. The heat softened colour is rubbed into the engraved lines and the print is taken off on to specially prepared tissue paper by dressing the copper plate with the tissue paper between two flannel covered rollers. Nowadays, power operated printing machines are employed. The engraved copper cylinder prints the pattern on a continuous roll of paper. The colour mixed with oil is fed to the cylinder which is heated by an electric element in its centre.

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The Transferrer:
All superfluous tissue paper having been cut away the transferrer applies the paper print. It is vigorously rubbed on to the ware first with a flannel and then with a hard brush to ensure that it adheres firmly and evenly. Afterwards the paper is washed off leaving the pattern transferred to the ware. This is then passed through an electric kiln to harden on the colour of patterns printed on biscuit or to fuse the colour to the glaze in the case of those printed on the glaze.

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The Enameller:
Printed patterns can be enriched by the addition of ceramic colours, the painting of which calls for great skill.

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Ravilious & Wedgwood: The Complete Wedgwood Designs of Eric Ravilious by Eric Ravilious and Robert Harling, 1995.
 The Making of Wedgwood at Barlaston, Stoke on Trent.

Afternoon Tea with Ravilious

The journey of any work of art can be interesting in how it is used, forgotten and then reused. As I write this I think it’s endemic of Ravilious’s life that there can be no area or topic on him that hasn’t been probed or turned into a book, but onward I go with my quest for originality.

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 Eric Ravilious – Sketch for Tea in the Garden, 1936

In 1936 Eric Ravilious made a wood engraving for London Transport. Tea in the Garden was made to be used in newspaper advertisements for the Green Line bus service, a decorative vignette to go with commuter information. It is a rather abstract design but it was the start of the commuter lifestyle as London was building a new wave of suburbia and you can imagine the print being used with slogans like “home in time for tea” or “enjoy the garden, 20 mins from the city by bus

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 Eric Ravilious – Finished print of Tea in the Garden, 1936

Soon after Ravilious reused the design for a commission with Wedgwood, he was so busy during this point that many designs where recycled from wood engravings to watercolours or china. Below you can see a sketch drawing for a teapot design using the woodblock above. Carving out the legs of the bench and inverting the colours of the table so when printed the transfer will be black and an enamel colour wash painted over.

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 Eric Ravilious – Sketched idea for Teapot design, 1938

The finished design below, with the colouring in yellow, blue and green. The design has been made simpler and the shading is able to be more subtle as it will be printed on a metal plate, so there is more detail in the halftone lines. It was first used on a preserve jar for Wedgwood.

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The preserve jar was introduced six months in advance of the rest of the pattern. The design was advertised in 1939 as being available also in breakfast and coffee sets; the war prevented production of these. At first unnamed, later called ‘Teaset’, the design was finally named ‘Afternoon Tea’.

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Here the tea-set is advertised in ‘The Studio Year Book of Decorative Art 1943-1948′ (the gap in printing is noted in the introduction due to WW2, lack of paper and designers being commissioned to do essential war work, this year book covers a wide range of time).

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The Bone china tea ware decorated with motifs illustrating Afternoon Tea, printed in sepia and hand-coloured green. Designed by Eric Ravilious A.R.C.A. for Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. 

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Here is a tea-plate from the set with the simple wave decoration on the perimeter of the plate and washed in blue enamel paint.

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 In this prototype photograph from 1938 the design is painted around with a pink glaze to the edge of the design and the Ravilious vignette and border uncoloured but printed in a brown sepia with the pink flooding over the whole plate. These are the rarest of all the designs as they were not put into production and the designs were modified to use less colour glaze after the war. 

Twenty five years later the original woodblock design would be resurrected and used in a reduced size for advertising and on the covers of Country Walks booklets.

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 Country Walks with the Ravilious Engraving on the cover, 1978

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 A rather fun and unusual poster for the Country Walks books by Harry Stevens, 1978.

Ravilious Engravings by Ravilious Jeremy Greenwood, Wood Lea Press, 2008.
Country Walks, London Transport, 1978.
Ravilious and Wedgwood: The Complete Wedgwood Designs of Eric Ravilious, 1995.
† The Studio Year Book of Decorative Art 1943-1948 
  

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Everyman’s Vanguard

There are many examples where book design is uniform, most famously Penguin Book’s ‘Stripe’ design by Edward Young and perfected by Jan Tschichold in 1935. Bold and colourful they were enormously successful and cheap to make being paperback. The colours they used to coordinate the books also made selecting a book a quicker process due to your preference, Crime-Green. Fiction-Orange. Cerise-Travel. Blue-Biographies. Red-Drama.

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There where many other sets imitating Penguin’s success, most of them short lived. Below is a range of book jackets that Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious had been commissioned to do, but this time in hardback.


Edward Bawden & The Vanguard Library

 

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The Vanguard Library (not to be confused with Vanguard Books, a US series from the 1930s) was a joint venture published by Chatto & Windus in association with William Heinemann Ltd. The joint venture was probably to combine the backlist of titles under copyright to both of these smaller publishers. The series was in print for only a few years in the early 1950s. The series consisted of back catalog titles, mostly modern fiction, a smattering of more and less serious fiction. 

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The dust jacket of the Vanguard Library books originally featured a standard design by Edward Bawden of a Trojan warrior on a geometric background. 

 A page from Bawden’s Sketchbooks showing the designs being worked upon.

Although the series would go on with various designs and dust jackets, it is estimated that only twelve books with Bawden’s covers where issued, all in 1952 with his Trojan design but with colour variations.

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The inspiration for the Trojan design is likely to have come from another book illustration commission Bawden had completed the year before, illustrating Rex Warner’s ‘Greeks & Trojans’. 


Ravilious & Everyman’s Library 
The series Eric Ravilious was commissioned to re-design was to run far longer than Bawden’s. J. M. Dent and Company began to publish the ‘Everyman’s Library’ series in 1906. It was conceived in 1905 by London publisher Joseph Malaby Dent, whose goal was to create a 1,000 volume library of world literature that was affordable for, and that appealed to, every kind of person, from students to the working classes to the cultural elite.

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 An Everyman’s Library book with Ravilious’s designs to the cover 1935-45

After running for thirty years and likely with the new release of Penguin paperback books, the series went under a redesign in 1935. Eric Ravilious was asked to redesign the covers, end-papers and make graphic devices for each subject that would also be colour coordinated with the dust jackets, like penguin books were. Both publishers where aiming for the same thing, cheap books for the people. 

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Above is the decorative knot used on the front covers of the books from 1935-1945. Signed ER in the corner. The carving on the top and bottom spikes seemed to lack some detail that would be expected from his normal standard. In two letters to his lover Helen Binyon, Ravilious writes about how the work is rushed and from all accounts takes three months from January to March:

3rd February 1935
…Dents have sent along a proof of the new book which is bad but not very bad, and I am hoping at the eleventh hour to do part of the job again. Unfortunately there is a hurry for it. 

21st March 1935

…Everyman is out at last, and seeing six new volumes this morning they looked alright – the one blue Chesterton even rather good. 

Below are a selection of some of the dust-jacket colours and devices used for the different subjects and featured on the title page of the book. Perplexingly the designs are not featured on the book spines: 

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 Left to right is Oratory (Red), Reference (Pink), Romance (Orange), Poetry & Drama (Green).

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 Left to right: Science (Grey Blue), Young People (Bright Blue) Travel and Topography (Green), Essays & Bells-Lettres

Looking at the devices under magnification, there is every evidence that the engravings were made in a considerable hurry with engraved lines carrying on where they should have stopped and inadequate clearing of background details, none the less they represent a considerable imaginative achievement and are most effective. 

From 1945, the abstract knot was replaced on some volumes with a clam-shell like design overlaid with an ‘EL’, and from 1951 it was used on most jackets until the design was replaced in 1953.

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 A section of the end paper, with a star like repeat design by Ravilious for the series, it was used from 1935-1953.

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 An alternative end-paper that was briefly used in 1935 but suspended for the star patterned paper above.

Vanguard Library http://seriesofseries.owu.edu/vanguard-library/
Ravilious – Engravings – Jeremy Greenwood
Everyman’s Library: The Ravilious Era http://www.everymanslibrarycollecting.com/ravilious.html

Eric Ravilious Obituary

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Today it is hard to ignore the artist effect of Eric Ravilious, the tide of books on him alone prove his popularity. This is an article from ‘The Artist’ magazine, March, 1943. It ends with a short record of his death, some weeks before. I thought it was interesting that its intention was a review of his life and works but became an obituary. 

Eric Ravilious by Richard Seddon
Artists of note: Number 97. The Artist Magazine. March 1943

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 Eric Ravilious – The Causeway, Wiltshire Downs, 1937

Paul Nash was the first to notice the work of Eric Ravilious. This happened when Ravilious was a student of the Royal College of art under the instruction of Nash in the school of design. His wood engraving impressed Paul Nash as being worthy of special attention, and it was on the latter’s introduction that Ravilious became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers. In the society’s exhibitions Ravilious’s engravings immediately drew attention from publishers and their agents. Ravilious illustrated several books and was soon established as a book illustrator of exceptional status.

Between that time and the present he has consolidated a reputation as a leader of contemporary art; not as a leader in figurative or influential, but rather in the most academic sense, of the advancement of research and knowledge. He does not supinely follow the present tendencies and work in a certain manner merely because that manner can be accepted as the logical outcome of the particular form of art and aesthetics accepted at the moment in the country. He does not look for what is being done nowadays, in order to do likewise.

Leadership in art, as in anything else, calls for the usual hackneyed attributes: courage, self-confidence, faith in purpose, and so on. But in art, somehow, as in anything abstract, it needs enthusiasm enough to keep it up in the face of that inexplicable hostility that people show in face of anything that is ‘new.’

In feeling and temperament the work of Ravilious is very English. Ravilious, unlike so many Englishmen, does not try to paint as though he were a Frenchman. His work has its roots deeply sunk into the life and the countryside and the culture of England. His water colours are the lineal descendants of the English eighteenth century school of water colour than in its time gave England a brief reign as a country important in the world’s art, a reign that lasted until the French impressionists wrested the sceptre for France, a reign into which, it is felt, England was re-entering at the beginning of this war, through the excellence of the contemporary school of English landscape, of which Ravilious is one of the most important members.

That, because of his very full knowledge of the history and methods of English art and design, he carries on the English tradition, is apparent in his work in any of the media he employs. His wood engravings revive and extend the essential tradition of Thomas Bewick and the English eighteenth century wood engravers. In his water colours he takes up the story where Peter de Wint, Paul Sandy, John White Abbott and their contemporaries left off, and carries it a stage farther, in the life of modern knowledge. Examples of his pottery design that he carried out for Wedgwood can take their place in the Victoria & Albert Museum, among the original products of Josiah as if by hereditary right. 

It is not possible to select one or two influences that can be credited with the moulding of Ravilious’s vision. After leaving school in Eastbourne, he attended Eastbourne School of Art, from where he went up to the Royal College of Art, in London. There, under principal-ship of Sir William Rothenstein, he was tutored by some of the most important contemporary artists in the country. Naturally, the powerful influences of such men must have affected his outlook; indeed, they did. In addition he received, asI have said, an exhaustively comprehensive education in art and design, from which soure he derived the solution of those problems of expression that he always seems to face with courage and solve with ingenuity. 

He might easily have been tossed for ears upon a sea of conflicting influences; if so, it happened when he was at the R.C.A., and the process was completed by the time he began his career as a practising artist. At least, no indecision has ever shown itself in the work of his maturity. that he owes something, as all artists, to skilful pilotage, can be safely assumed, but that he emerged with an original style is patently a logical result of his own personal outlook. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Design for Coronation mug for Edward VIII, 1936.

He is thirty eight, and therefore can be said to have not yet reached the peak of his artistic maturity. As regards his work, whatever the medium he invariable approaches a subject with an open mind and embodies in the work, whether it is a wood engraving, a water colour, ceramics, or fabric design, at least one idea that arises from the needs of that particular job and no other. Of course he refers in his mind as he is thinking it out not only to history but to past works of his own to help in solving the problem of the moment, but he avoids any tendency to repeat successes of the past ad nauseam, giving the same colours, the same subtleties, the same textures and so on, whether or not they are the right ones for the present job. I stress the fact that he does not walk in such a manner because very many artists, both distinguished and otherwise, do so. 

Ravilious never rests on his laurels. It cannot be said about a sequence of his work as it can of the work of other artists that, having seen one, you have seen them all. Though they are all built around the personality of the artist, each of his productions is sufficient unto itself. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Rendering Mines Safe, 1940. (Now called Dangerous Work at Low Tide)

In a Ravilious exhibition, the paintings are, in the truest sense, variations on a theme and not repetitions. It is said that there are four different ways of looking at a picture, Firstly the observer might stand away and savour the emotional content and the subject matter.Secondly, he might appreciate the purely academic appeal, such as the colour harmony and the broad lines of the composition. Thirdly he might go near the picture and closely examine the technical minutiae: the brushwork, the qualities of the surface, the interplay of ‘fat’ and ‘lean’ painting, and so on. Fourthly, he might scrutinise, analytically, the patterns achieved by the painter, by the use of his range of different ways of coving a surface and of filling in a space. 

The Victorian painters appealed to the first two methods, and many contemporary schools solely to the last two. A few contemporary painters, including Eric Ravilious, appeal to all four. Ravilious particularly appeals to the last. His textures and patterns, whatever the medium, are an important feature of his work. He composes as a rule within a tight linear framework, making spaces of carefully contrasted size and shape which he fills with textures that derive partly from the intrinsic textures of the original of the subject and largely from his own fertile imagination. The settings for his landscape painting have been the Downs and coast of Sussex, and localities in Essex, Wiltshire and Wales. 

Apart from his war painting he confesses to a tendency to paint in sequences: groups of broken-down tractors and old cars and buses in fields, the discarded machinery of Essex. He has painted a series of Sussex hills, a set of chalk figures (such as the Aylesbury White Horse), a set of lighthouses, rowing boats, beds, beaches and greenhouses. Ravilious was educated at Eastbourne Grammar School. He left the Royal College of Art only to return in 1929 as instructor in design, which position he filled until 1938. Whilst a student at the college he and Edward Bawden completed a well known mural decoration in the refreshment room of Morley College, which was destroyed by a bomb.

Other important mural decorations by Ravilious are those in the circular room at the L.M.S. Hotel at Morecambe and the ceiling decorations in the dining hall of the new Merchant Taylors’ School. Since 1926 he has illustrated books for the Kynoch Press, mainly by wood engravings. His engravings have also illustrated Volume I of ‘Signature’ and Gilbert White’s ‘Selborne.’ From 1937 to 1939 he designed pottery for Wedgwood. One of the best known of these designs was the Coronation Mug. His designing for glass he dismisses as a mere gesture; as a gesture it was brief, but effective. 

Exhibitions of the work of Ravilious were held at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1934 and 1937, and one at Tooth’s in 1939. Three of his water colour drawings are in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and there are others in the public galleries. At the beginning of the present war he was offered and he accepted an appointment as official war artist to the Admiralty. He holds with the rank of hon. captain in the Royal Marines.

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 Eric Ravilious – Lewis Gunner

Since this article was written, Eric Ravilious has been posted as ‘missing’. After spending a period in Iceland, in his capacity as official war artist, he life that island by plane and has not been heard of since. Thus ends the career of a very fine artist, whose last efforts were devoted to recording events connected with the war – records which will go down to posterity, and which will keep his memory green, especially in the art world which respected him for his achievements. He was a sane progressive, sound in judgement and method. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Convoy From Merchant Ship At Anchor, 1943

Art of the Ancients

After buying the etching below and looking up the artist and location, it struck me how the uncovering and preservation of British ancient monuments in the twentieth century, together with the age of motoring bought artists to translate these places into art.

Chalk Men:

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 John G Rigsby – Cerne Giant

Cerne Abbas is a parish just about eight miles north from Dorchester, in Dorset, England, where, as in the etching above, a human figure has been cut into the chalk hillside. The figure, generally referred to as a giant, is the outline of an ithyphallic man carrying a club in his right hand. At about 55 metres high and 51 metres wide it dominates the valley below. Above the Giant is another landmark, the Iron Age earthwork known as the “Trendle” or “Frying Pan”. The carvings are formed by outlines cut into the turf about 2ft deep, and filled with crushed chalk. The construction of the Wilmington Giant is much the same.

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 Eric Ravilious – Wilmington Giant, 1939.

“The Long Man of Wilmington and the very phallic Cerne Abbas Giant are of unknown age and controversy still rages over the date of the latter in particular”. 

The Ravilious painting is a watercolour using white resist makes the Giant Glow out from the paper’s natural colour, as do his cross-hatched, almost engraver brush-strokes of differing tones of colour.

Stonehenge:

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 Gertrude Hermes – Stonehenge, 1959.

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 Henry Moore – Stonehenge, 1973

Above two sculptors draw and engrave their perception of Stonehenge. Archaeologists believe Stonehenge was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Unlike the chalk men, there have been writings of Stonehenge from most of recorded time. The earliest record of the chalk giants is from the 17th century.

Moore on Stonehenge: I began the Stonehenge series with etching in mind, but as I looked at, and drew, and thought about Stonehenge, I found that what interested me most was not its history, nor its original purpose – whether chronological or religious – or even its architectural arrangement, but its present-day appearance. I was above all excited by the monumental power and stoniness of the massive man-worked blocks and by the effect of time on them. Some 4000 years of weathering has produced an extraordinary variety of interesting textures.

Avebury:

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 John Piper – Avebury, 1944

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 Paul Nash – Landscape of the Megaliths, 1937

Above are both the avenue and the stone circle of Avebury painted in different styles by both Nash and Piper. John Piper’s image was for a book on Romantic British Poetry and he is making use of limited use of colours in the printing process of the book to make the dark-to-light drama washed with umbers. Nash’s lithograph is one of his less surreal of this working time period, unlike the image below where Nash project’s his own vision for modern monoliths. They maybe hay-bails or car grills but these are, to Nash, the monoliths of today.

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 Paul Nash – Equivalents for the Megaliths, 1935.

With Nash it’s best to use his own words about why he came to paint ‘Equivalents for the Megaliths’

These groups (at Avebury) are impressive as forms opposed to their
surroundings both by virtue of their actual composition of lines and masses and planes, directions and volumes; and in the irrational sense, their suggestion of a super-reality. They are dramatic also, however, as symbols of their antiquity, as hallowed remnants of an almost unknown civilisation. 

In designing the picture, I wished to avoid the very powerful influence of the antiquarian suggestion, and to insist only upon the dramatic qualities of a composition of shapes equivalent to the prone or upright stones simply as upright or prone, or leaning masses, grouped together in a scene of open fields and hills. –  Paul Nash – Letter to Lance Sieveking. May 1937. 

The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art. p116 9780521454735
Paul Nash Places. 9781853320460
Henry Moore. Writings and Conversations. p299 978-0520231610