In 1941 Eric Ravilious moved to Ironbridge Farm, Shalford, Essex. It was to be the last home he would know. The Second World War had come and he was touring the country painting works on behalf of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.
The farmhouse, which dates from the 16th century is called Ewen Bridge Farm, though it is also confused as Iron Bridge Farm as there is a bridge with ironwork nearby on a footpath, however this is a coincidence and has no historical reference to the farmhouse.
Eric Ravilious – Iron Bridge at Ewenbridge, 1941
In the year before the move from Castle Hedingham to the Farm, Ravilious’s wife Tirzah, was diagnosed with breast cancer and just before moving in 1941, Eric’s mother Emma died, she was 77 years old. Tizah gave birth to Anne Ravilious (Ullmann) and they moved into the farm.
At the end of April, at very short notice, they all moved from Castle Hedingham to a new house, but still in Essex. It was called Ironbridge Farm, at Shalford, near Braintree, and was in the valley of the Pant. The country and the river were looking lovely in the spring. The house, an old one, with very few conveniences. ‡
Eric’s friend Peggy Angus rented Furlongs, a cottage on an a vast country estate and never bought the property, continuing to rent it all her life. Furlongs also had no electricity but did have running water. Peggy’s life may have been the inspiration for the move, and the desire for more space would have been obvious with three children now in the family. The farm was also five miles closer to Great Bardfield than Castle Hedingham.
They rented Ironbridge Farm at Shalton, near Braintree, paying half the rent to their landlord (the Labour politician John Strachey) in Eric’s pictures. †
Eric Ravilious – Farm House and Field, 1941
The house then looks to have been clad and whitewashed, however today the building has it’s beams exposed and is painted a light yellow, otherwise externally it is much the same.
Ironbridge Farm today.
Eric Ravilious – Tree Trunk & Barrow Ironbridge, 1941
The inside of the house looks a lonely whitewashed place. No time for decorating looks to have been spared and with the war and the fact it was a rented property it may not have happened at all, in the following paintings the rooms have few items of furniture in them, making every room look colder. On the wall is another of his paintings from the house. In the interior paintings Ravilious shows us his other works or tubes of paints, it is like he is looking at a mirror with out himself in it.
Eric Ravilious – Ironbridge Interior, 1941
In the painting below (Flowers on Cottage Table), the vase on a coaster is an undecorated specimen from Wedgwood for Ravilious’s Boat Race Vase in 1938. It shows that he must have designed for the china with demonstration shapes in front of him.
Eric Ravilious – Boat Race Day Footed Bowl, 1938
Eric Ravilious – Flowers on Cottage Table, 1941
Below is a draft copy of the same painting but in an unfinished state.
Eric Ravilious – Garden Flowers on Cottage Table, 1941
† Ian Carter – Railways and Culture in Britain: The Epitome of Modernity, 2001 ‡ Helen Binyon – Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist, 1983 Robert Harling – Ravilious & Wedgwood, 1986
This post started off with me wondering where the picture below was painted and the view from the window. It turns out to be Rye and the view is of the Harbour there. The pub it was painted in still exists.
Eric Ravilious – Room at the William the Conqueror, 1938
In real life the Room at the William the Conqueror painting is an odd one. It has a section of it pasted over with paper that has been repainted in the middle of the painting, almost like a sketch that was compleated. The ‘edit’ must have been a different paper as it has yellowed in a way the rest of the painting hasn’t. I wonder what is under the patch? My guess is a chair – if it was Bawden it would have been a cat.
The image below is the pub, still standing today with the bay windows upstairs and the view of the harbour that they face. It is always nice to look at a painting and be able to find the location and wonder that almost 80 years ago Ravilious was up there painting away.
The William the Conqueror Pub more recently.
The view out of the window then would have been like the postcard below, the lighthouse to the right with the shed just beside it, the harbour in use with all sizes of sea-craft. The design of the lighthouse is also not what you would think of, it looks like it was constructed of wood.
The view Ravilious would pick turns out to be a favourite of artists, looking at other paintings of Rye Harbour many painted the lighthouse from across the water.
The harbour itself was tidal and some way inland, so it was not always safe for boats to travel inland if the tide was out. This led to the building of the lighthouse, to warn of the low tide. A complex but fascinating sequence of lights shining from the lighthouse out to sea, signalled if it was safe to travel into the harbour or not.
At night the lighthouse was used with a red light exhibited from a window at 25 feet above height water level, visible for 3 miles, to indicate 8 feet clearance above the bar. When the level rose to 9 feet an additional bright white light was exhibited from a second window at 12 feet above high water level and finally when the clearance was over 10 feet the red light was extinguished leaving only the white light showing.
The painting below is only a few paces down the embankment from the pub but it shows off the litter of the port-side and Ravilious’s love for antiquated and forgotten items.
Eric Ravilious – Anchor and Boats, Rye, 1938
Eric Ravilious – Rye Harbour, 1938
This painting has a different angle and one of Ravilious’s most famous works, the mouth of the harbour on the way out to sea at low tide.
He (Ravilious) went on to Rye Harbour to paint, staying at the William the Conqueror Inn. The artist Edward Le Bas, who was staying at his cottage nearby, saw the landscape Eric was painting and liked it.
Edward La Bas also painted the same scene of the lighthouse over the harbour the next year.
Edward Le Bas – The Lighthouse, Rye Harbour, East Sussex, 1939 Once in the collection of Edward Marsh.
From 1933 until the early 1990s, Peggy Angus lived at Furlongs, a cottage on the remote south downs near Beddingham – a stone’s throw from Glyndebourne and Charleston. Before the Second World War she entertained many notable artists of the day at Furlongs, including Eric Ravilious and John Piper. The life of Peggy Angus reads from the page like the royalty of the 1930s art world.
Born in Chile on 9 November 1904, in a railway station, the eleventh of thirteen children of a Scottish railway engineer. She spent her first five years in Chile before her family returned to Britain. She grew up in Muswell Hill and became a pupil at the North London Collegiate School. At 17, she entered the Royal College of Art and, later, won a painting and teaching scholarship to Paris.
At the RCA, her contemporaries included the sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, the painters Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, and illustrators Barnett Freedman and Enid Marx. Angus wanted to be a painter but soon transferred to the Design School at the RCA, where she was taught by Paul Nash. In order to earn a living, Angus took a teacher training course and began her first teaching post in 1925. Angus travelled to Russia in 1932 for an art teachers’ study visit and later urged her students to travel to the Soviet Union. This earned her the nickname “Red Angus.”
After her visit to Russia in 1932, she became one of the founding members of Artists’ International Association, an organisation born out of social and political conflicts of the 1930s. Between 1938 and 1947, Angus was married to James Maude Richards (author of Castles on the ground, High Street), a young architect and writer, with whom she had a daughter, Victoria, and a son Angus. Later, Richards and Angus divorced. Richards became editor of the Architectural Review and introduced her to many modernist architects. ♥
Eric Ravilious first came to visit Furlongs in 1934. Peggy Angus and her husband J M Richards had a lodger who lived with them in London, it was Helen Binyon, daughter of Laurence Binyon. Helen was a talented wood-engraver. On a trip to Furlongs, Ravilious and Binyon found themselves antiquated themselves with each other.
Peggy Angus – Eric Ravilious and Helen Binyon, 1934
Ravilious and Helen Binyon had been students together at the RCA, but lost touch. Peggy Angus brought them back together. Tirzah certainly visited Furlongs in 1934, but Eric’s many later visits were made to meet Binyon, with whom he conducted a flaming affair for five years. In 1938 Binyon’s concern for Tirzah forced an end to this relationship. ♠
On a local trip Peggy Angus took Ravilious to a cement works that was on the other side of Lewes.
In the cement works close to Furlongs, Ravilious found a miniature landscape complete with dramatic cliffs and deep gorges: a kind of modern, industrial – and in a strange way domesticated – version of the Romantic landscapes painted by Cozens and Towne. ♣
Peggy Angus took Ravilious to see a recently opened cement works, where miniature ‘Dolly’ engines ran on curving tracks, a few miles away across the hills. As Binyon recalls, the manager ‘was surprised but pleased to meet two artists who could see beauty in his works and said they were welcome to come and draw there; he had been pained to find, when the works were started, that he was considered a desecrator of the countryside and an object of abuse from the locals. ♦
In a letter Tirzah Ravilious wrote:
There were two cement works nearby, one called Greta and the other called Garbo, and Eric was delighted with them and the funny little engines which drove the trucks. He was very happy there and did a series of cement works pictures. †
Angus and Ravilious would paint together, Angus using oil paints and Ravilious watercolours. Both produced lively works, but with Eric’s works being more simple and abstracted to the eye and Angus’s being nearer to how a photograph would see it.
Peggy Angus – Asham Cement Works, 1934
Peggy Angus – Asham Cement Works, 1934
Eric Ravilious – Alpha Cement Works, 1934
Eric Ravilious – The Cement Pit I, 1934
Eric Ravilious – Cement Works II, 1934
Eric Ravilious, Dolly Engine, 1934
Below is a letter from Angus to Ravilious, noting how he sent them an Optimus lamp and noting that she has finished one of her oil paintings of the cement works. The drawing below has Peggy’s address has a haystack, like Eric would paint the next year (pictured under the letter).
Letter from Peggy Angus to Eric Ravilious
Eric Ravilious – Furlongs, 1935
In order to do more work at Furlongs and likely to have time away from Tirzah, and more time with Helen, Eric bought two old Caravans that had been used as mobile pest houses.
Eric Ravilious – Caravans, 1936
When Peggy and Eric were walking home from the cement works, and had just crossed the Newhaven road, they noticed what seemed to be an old track below the side of the lane they were on, and underneath its overgrown vegetation they saw bits of what seemed to be two odd-looking vehicles. They crawled round them but could not make out what they were. When they asked Mr Wilson at the cement works about them, he said they were fever wagons from the Boer War; after the war they had been shipped back to Newhaven. He thought they might have been used by the first prospectors for the cement works and then been dumped where they were now. He had no use for them and offered to sell them for 15 shillings each. ‡
Ravilious rooted out two abandoned horse-drawn Crimean War fever wagons from local ditches, then arranged for them to be secreted in undergrowth near Furlongs. One was fitted up as a bedroom, the other as a studio. ♠
We know when Ravilious’s wife Tirzah came on a visit to Furlongs that she decorated the bedroom caravan. She also accepted his trips to Sussex painting, leaving her at home in Essex as he was producing enough paintings to furnish one of his art shows at Zwemmer Galleries. He had connected with the landscape and was turning out many colourful works.
Ravilious would also use Furlongs as a base to explore away from the house. He would paint Newhaven starting out from Furlongs to meet Edward Bawden and both staying in at the Hope Inn.
The second time the Raviliouses came they brought with them more painting materials and Tirzah’s marbling apparatus and sheets of Michallet paper. She set all this up and was soon making charming patterned papers; some of the plum-coloured ones she used to paper the wall in the Furlongs kitchen. ‡
While Tirzah awaited the birth of their second child, James, in Eastbourne. Peggy Angus was there, also expecting a baby, and there were other visits and visitors.One evening was spent at Bentley Wood with architect Serge Chermayeff, and another drinking claret with Diana Low in the garden at Furlongs. In the resulting paintings, particularly Tea at Furlongs and Interior at Furlongs. †
Ravilious returned to Furlongs for the last time in August 1939.
† James Russell – Ravilious: The Watercolours, 2015 ‡ Helen Binyon – Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist, 1983 ♠ Ian Carter – Railways and Culture in Britain: The Epitome of Modernity, 2001 ♣ Eric Ravilious – Dulwich Picture Gallery Guide, 2015 ♥ Wikipedia – Peggy Angus ♦ Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities, 2004
Whenever I have tried to find information on the maker of the chair below I have always hit a wall. We know it was designed by Eric Ravilious for the shop Dunbar Hay Ltd in 1937. I put a tweet out but nothing came of it until I asked someone on Instagram who collected Kelly’s Guides and other business directories.
Before this the only information to be found in any book or in the V&A archive was that the chair was made by H.Harris.
It might not look to be important but you never know what links come from this information and it could in time help to find out production numbers, if any other designs were made or rejected, any surplus stock and on…
Eric Ravilious Designed Chair as part of a table set sold at Dunbar Hay, 1937
This armchair forms part of a dining suite, the only known furniture designed by Eric Ravilious. He was an artist and illustrator whose paintings included murals for interiors. The chair was commissioned for a new furnishing shop founded by Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn and Athole Hay. Four dining sets with variations were made.
In the 1930s there were still many enemies of the square and sometimes harsh shapes of modernism. Many designers and patrons preferred furniture that had links with the past. This chair is in keeping with the popular Regency revival style of the 1930s. The lines are recognisably those of the English Regency style (about 1810–30), but they are simplified to correspond to 1930s taste. †
The person on Instagram was David Wakefield, a typographer and designer with an amazing collection of books on printmaking and ephemera. It was with his help alone I can tell you now that H. Harris was Hyman Harris.
In 1911, Hyman Harris was recorded at 3 Grimsby Street, Bethnal Green. At that time, advertised as a wood chimney-piece manufacturer with Williamson & Harris at Guy’s Buildings and 85 Kingsland Road.
By 1931, he is H Harris & Sons Ltd, at 18 Gosset Street and 17 & 25 Newling Street, Bethnal Green, still recorded as chimney-piece manufacturer. However, by 1944, or earlier after 1931, he is H Harris & Sons (Furniture) Ltd, Who. cabinet makers, Grimsby Street, E2. ‡
For those of you who live in the UK, on the BBC last night was the Antiques Roadshow. A lady had bought along a wood engraving found in her husbands-grandmothers attic, a signed wood-engraving by Eric Ravilious. It was being valued by Mark Hill and appears at 7min 50seconds, the link is here (UK Only).
The engraving appears on the back cover of the Golden Cockerel Press Spring Prospectus List for 1930.
Eric Ravilious – Design for Back Cover of the Golden Cockerel Press Spring Prospectus List, 1930
Eric the copycat Ravilious, as I am starting to think of him, may well have taken delight in how surprised I am that so many of his designs are recycled from other works. Over the ages he might be whispering ‘In front of your face are the clues, now go find them’ but as in my previous blogs, I take delight in such matters.
In 1936, Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn
(later Lady Sempill) and (the Royal College of Art registrar) Athole Hay, set up a shop to promote the works of RCA students in modern interiors, the shop was called Dunbar Hay Ltd.
Josiah Wedgwood and Sons began their work with Ravilious following his introduction to Victor Skellern, the head Art Director at Wedgwood.
In 1934 Skellern was new to the job at Wedgwood and looking to shake the company up, he had also studied at the RCA.
The introduction was instigated by Kilburn who encouraged established companies to take on young designers to make more interesting products for her shop to sell. Ravilious would also be recommended to Stuart Crystal and much later, the British Cotton Trade Board to do work.
Eric Ravilious – Pen and Wash Design for Garden plate series, 1938
The Garden Implements jug designs by Eric Ravilious for Wedgwood in 1939 saw him once again recycling old works. A year before he was designing a series of tableware called Garden for Wedgwood, in one of the many designs is a small barrel, full of tools, just like from the jug. The plate was issued and the barrel of tools used on the plate as well as on the lid for the teapot.
However when the barrel design is alone on the jug it looks like an illustration from a farmers almanac, much more elegant. The other side of the jug has a series of vignette designs. The Garden Implements jug forms part of a lemonade set. The designs and transfers placed on a stock Wedgwood ‘Liverpool Jug’ shape. Production numbers in 1939 are unknown but a limited number of 250 was produced in 1986 to mark the 50th anniversary of his first employment by Wedgwood in 1936. Below I have outlined the memory bubbles Ravilious used in the vignettes of this 1939 design.
This design as far as I know is an original drawing for the jug, although two years later when asked to make some designs for the British Cotton Board he re-used the design again, though those designs were never printed commercially.
Eric Ravilious – Design on Paper for a child’s handkerchief, 1941
The Sunflowers The drawing of a Sunflower looks like it could have been a watercolour from the re-drawing of the main flower.
Eric Ravilious – Drawing of a Sunflower, c1935
The Wheelbarrow The Wheelbarrow was used in an earlier commission of some months from Wedgwood. The design of the Garden Implement jug, takes the log laden wheelbarrow and empties it for a simpler design.
Eric Ravilious – Design for Garden dinner service, Wedgwood, 1938
The Jug The Jug of Acanthus leafs, a subject for an earlier painting has been drawn with halftone lines as if it was a wood engraving.
Eric Ravilious – Still Life with Acanthus Leaves, 1938
The Beehive The Beehive wood engraving appears in the Country Life Cookery Book in 1937, Ravilious made 12 engravings for the book, one for each month and Ambrose Heath provided the text. Heath also worked with Edward Bawden on cookery books as well.
Eric Ravilious – June, Wood-engraving for the County Life Cookery Book, 1937
A fabric was made of the jug designs, the commission likely came at the same time as the handkerchief design, pictured above. The commissioner was a young graphic designer (the man who invented the peace sign) working for the British Cotton Board, Gerald Holtom. It was 1941 and Ravilious was now in the War Artists Adversy Scheme, so Holtom went to Eric’s boss, Dickey O’Rourke.
I’ve just had a long visit from a Mr Gerald Holtom who seems very much to want designs for textiles for some Cotton Board. It would make a change to do this for a bit, and he assures me the whole thing is urgent and necessary. Do you know anything of this scheme? I said that it was a good idea which I would do if it were possible. The committee agreed that Eric might in Mr Holtom’s phrase ‘postpone battle at sea for battle in export trade’, and do some experiments in designing textiles †‡
It is as yet unknown by me, if Ravilious intended the Garden Implements design to become a fabric also, but in 1956 the Edinburgh Weavers company did produce a short run of this fabric for commercial sale but how it came about I don’t know. Judging from the amount of recycling of work Ravilious did it wouldn’t surprise me.
The handkerchief above however was designed on paper and with documentation it was for the BCB. In 1989 Alan Powers and his Judd Street Gallery printed a limited run of the handkerchief.
Edinburgh Weavers – Garden Implements design after Eric Ravilious, 1957.
† Alan Powers – Eric Ravilious’s Child’s Handkerchief. 1989
‡ Helen Binyon – Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist, 1983 Jeremy Greenwood – Eric Ravilious Wood Engravings, 2008 Robert Harling – Ravilious & Wedgwood, 1986
While looking into Eric Ravilious’s work for London Transport I noticed how many times a greenhouse would appear in Ravilious’s work.
Eric Ravilious – Kynoch Press Block 112, 1932
There are two curious observations in this post. One is the wood-engraving above, and the one below are the same location; the walled-off greenhouse with decoration on the end of the roof above the glass panes. It is also like the wood-engraving Tea in the Garden, but not quite.
Tirzah, (Ravilious’s wife), was a wonderful wood-engraver and artist in her own right. Below is a man about town in a driving Macintosh laden with marrows, the perfect suburban man.
Tirzah Garwood – The Husband, 1929
Below are two pictures, one, a wood-engraving featured in last week’s post on London Transport, but also a photograph of Tirzah and Eric together at the time of their engagement.
I include it because it’s the second of my observations in this post – the bench they are sitting on is so remarkably similar to the bench in Tea in the Garden that I would say this is the same bench and the inspiration. The back may have curves on the woodcut but I would suggest this is just to make the design more harmonic.
Eric Ravilious – Tea in the Garden, 1936
Tirzah Garwood and Eric Ravilious at the time of their engagement, 1930
Below are a series of beautiful watercolours of greenhouses by Eric Ravilious included because they are so beautiful. It is very hard to walk into any greenhouse and not think of these paintings. They are the skill of perspective but also that skill found in craftsmen, the ability to paint, carve or make a series of objects, in the case of a carpenter it would be stair rods, in Ravilious’s case it is each plant pot and working with the the backdrop of shadow.
Eric Ravilious – The Greenhouse – Cyclamen and Tomatoes, 1935.
Eric Ravilious – Geraniums And Carnations In Greenhouse, 1935
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.
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. †
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.
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.
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.
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. †
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.
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.
Eric Ravilious – The Attic Bedroom, Brick House, 1934
Eric Ravilious – Hovis Mill, 1935
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.
Eric Ravilious – Drawing for Pony by a Mill wood-block, 1936
Eric Ravilious – Two Cows / Pony by a Mill, 1936
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.
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.
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.
Eric Ravilious – Two Cows, 1936, The Fry Gallery
1936 cover to Country Walks, 3rd Series with a Ravilious Design of Two Cows.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Old Vicarage in Castle Hedingham as it is now.
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.
Eric Ravilious – Two Swans, 1936
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.
Eric Ravilious – The Shepard, 1936
Eric Ravilious – The Shepard as part of a Green Line Advert, 1936
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”.
Eric Ravilious – Sketch for Tea in the Garden, 1936
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.
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.
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’.
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
Before television, the radio was the main media for the nation. The British Broadcasting Corporation was free from advertising and their early aims were to ‘educate, inform and entertain’. It was the education element that lead to leaflets being produced as a visual aid to the radio. The public could send a stamped-addressed envelope off and receive guide to the content in the radio show, from photographs of master paintings as part of a series of lectures on art to song sheets.
All of the artists from the Great Bardfield group would at one time or another work as commercial artists, many illustrating books. Here is a selection of works made for the BBC.
Eric Ravilious – BBC Talks Pamphlet, 1934
Published in 1934 this booklet was to follow six lectures on art, there are seven pages of text and 30 pages of black and white illustrations. The cover design is a wood engraving by Eric Ravilious showing a Bewick style wood-engraving, an artists pallet and oil paints and some beautiful graphic devices hand carved around the vignette. This booklet could be bought as a softback at seven pence or a hardback at one shilling.
Edward Bawden – Dust Jacket for the BBC Year Book 1947
This cover by Edward Bawden shows Broadcasting House and All Souls Church with musical faeries flying around. The BBC Year book started as an annual review beginning 1928. In the mid 50′s it became the BBC Handbook and in the 80s merged into an Annual Report. The focus of the publication would range from statistics of people with Radio Licences, to essays on Opera, Art and even Foley House, the building that Broadcasting House replaced. But this gives me a wonderful excuse to share a picture of this magnificent building so you can compare it to Bawden’s drawing.
BBC Broadcasting House, London, 1932.
Many of the other works in the rest of this article are simple two colour illustrations made for various children’s educational radio programs. The way each of the artists went about solving this problem is interesting but mostly it is based on technique and time. Inside the covers is usually sheet music, lyrics and an illustration for most of the songs.
Many of Shelia Robinson’s illustrations are black and white pen drawings or her cardboard-prints, but rarely is there much colour and when there is it looks to be the printer flooding the image around her illustration with it. It’s a shame because her art prints are extraordinarily competent.
Bernard Cheese’s works have a more interesting use of colour and layering for those interested in printmaking and use of one colour with black, as is the work of Walter Hoyle.
Shelia Robinson – Sing Together – Rhythm & Melody, 1955
Walter Hoyle – Rhythm and Melody, 1961
Walter Hoyle – Illustration from Rhythm and Melody, 1961
Shelia Robinson – Singing Together, 1961
Shelia Robinson – Rhythm and Melody – Summer, 1963
Bernard Cheese – Time and Tune, 1963
In a break from BBC radio pamphlets comes the BBC Book of the Countryside. A hardback book with a compilation of the BBC Countryside programs set out in a month by month calendar. For fans of Great Bardfield and East Anglian art, one gets work by both Walter Hoyle and Shelia Robinson, but also six illustrations by John Nash. The drawings from the book by Walter Hoyle I am delighted to own as part of my collection.
Cover to the BBC Book of the Countryside, 1963
Walter Hoyle – Page from the Book of the Countryside to the left and the drawing to the right, 1963.
Shelia Robinson – January, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside
Walter Hoyle – April, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside
Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1964
Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1968
Bernard Cheese – Illustration from Singing Together, 1968
To see more illustrations from the Bernard Cheese Singing Together 1968 book, click here as I dedicated a full post to them
This post covers a range of designs for the General Post Office by the artists of Great Bardfield, I think the post also shows the troubles of being a designer and how often artists were asked to submit designs and have them rejected.
We start with Shelia Robinson, who was the wife of Bernard Cheese and mother of artist Chloe Cheese. Like many of the Great Bardfield artists, Robinson was a print-maker but unlike most print-makers she used cardboard as a medium giving her prints a unique subtle quality. Her first commission for the Post Office would be to design one of two stamps for the 900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey in 1966.
Miss Sheila Robinson, an art teacher at the Royal College of Art, designed the 3p stamp (No. 452). This was her first attempt at stamp designing and her full name appears as imprint on the stamps. The 3p stamps, printed by Harrison and Sons.
Sheila Robinson – 900th Anniversary of Westminster Abbey Stamp, 1966.
Her next commission would be four years later as part of the British Rural Architecture set of four stamps, Robinson designed two stamps, the other two being designed by David Gentleman. Released on 11th February 1970, they were in circulation for one year. The final designs were Welsh Stucco and Ulster Thatch.
Sheila Robinson – Welsh Stucco Stamp, 1970
Sheila Robinson – Ulster Thatch, 1970
Above: Part of the information packet to the stamps
Below: are two other stamp designs and one prototype design.
Sheila Robinson – Abingdon (Linocut published by The Post Office), 1965
George Chapman had designed posters for Shell and the GPO. After he moved from Great Bardfield he moved to Wales, painting pictures in limited palates of colour, this is a grim looking image with the setting sun.
George Chapman – GPO Poster: This is Aberayron Cardiganshire, 1962
Denise Hoyle is the wife of Walter Hoyle and designed some simple posters for the Post Office savings bank, with the artwork being made from collages.
Denise Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank,
Denise Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank
Walter Hoyle’s poster designs for the Savings Bank are also curiously off, depicting daily life but in an unfashionable way. Harlow looks wretched with a Golly in the corner and Morris Dancing is hardly popular. The Pennan, Aberdeenshire poster has a beautiful painting with it but feels very lonely.
Walter Hoyle – Harlow, New Town, Post Office Savings Bank,
Walter Hoyle – Morris Dancers, Dunmow, Thaxted.
Walter Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank – Four Nations.
Walter Hoyle – Post Office Pennan, Aberdeenshire, GPO Poster, 1954
Walter Hoyle – Artwork for Post Office Pennan, Aberdeenshire, 1954
Eric Ravilious only work for the Post Office was a invitation to design a stamp to commemorate 100 years since the introduction of the Penny Black, the first adhesive stamp. Sadly this was not commissioned.
Eric Ravilious – Design for Stamp, 1940
Edward Bawden’s work for the GPO included work that was and wasn’t commissioned. The Post Office Tube Railway was used as a poster with Printed text blow on another sheet.
Edward Bawden – Post Office Tube Railway, 1935
The poster Bawden designed for London Transport to advertise Kew Gardens would be turned into stamps later along with other artists. The full image is on the poster but on the stamp they have cropped it.
Edward Bawden – Kew Gardens Poster for London Underground, 1936
Edward Bawden – Kew Gardens Stamp, 1993
Below is a telegram design by Bawden that was not used by the GPO.
In the archives are lists showing that many well-known artists had not only been considered but had actually been invited to proffer designs. That so many of these invitees did not result in published telegrams may have been a combination of reluctance on the side of the artist and under-confidence or economy on the side of the Post Office.
A list, … included McKnight Kauffer, Graham Sutherland, Edward Bawden, Gwen Raverat and Fougasse. And a further list some two years later, in 1937, apparently emanating from Beddington, included Robin Darwin, Claude Flight, Blair Hughes-Stanton, Cedric Morris, John Nash and Clare Leighton. Many of these were subsequently formally invited to submit roughs. †
Edward Bawden – Telegram Design, 1935
† Ruth Artmonsky – Bringer of Good Tidings. Greetings Telegrams, 2009 – p22