Great Bardfield and the Beeb

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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.

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 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. 

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 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.

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 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.

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 Shelia Robinson – Sing Together – Rhythm & Melody, 1955

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  Walter Hoyle – Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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  Walter Hoyle – Illustration from Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Singing Together, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Rhythm and Melody – Summer, 1963

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 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.

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 Cover to the BBC Book of the Countryside, 1963

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 Walter Hoyle – Page from the Book of the Countryside to the left and the drawing to the right, 1963.

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 Shelia Robinson – January, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Walter Hoyle – April, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1964

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1968

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 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

Great Bardfield at the GPO

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.

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 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.

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 Sheila Robinson – Welsh Stucco Stamp, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Ulster Thatch, 1970

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Above: Part of the information packet to the stamps
Below: are two other stamp designs and one prototype design.

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 Sheila Robinson – Stamp Design Study – Welsh Stucco Stamp, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Unused Stamp Design Study, 1970

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 Sheila Robinson – Unused Stamp Design Study, 1970

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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.

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 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.

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 Denise Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank, 

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 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.

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 Walter Hoyle – Harlow, New Town, Post Office Savings Bank, 

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 Walter Hoyle – Morris Dancers, Dunmow, Thaxted.

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 Walter Hoyle – Post Office Savings Bank – Four Nations.

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 Walter Hoyle – Post Office Pennan, Aberdeenshire, GPO Poster, 1954

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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 Edward Bawden – Kew Gardens Poster for London Underground, 1936

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 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. †

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 Edward Bawden – Telegram Design, 1935

Ruth Artmonsky – Bringer of Good Tidings. Greetings Telegrams, 2009 – p22

Great Bardfield Christmas Cards

Here are some of the Christmas cards from various Great Bardfield artists. I have always thought it important to send out something decorative and interesting at Christmas and the Bardfield artists were the same. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Christmas Card

With some of the artists like Walter Hoyle the envelopes were just as important as the cards for decoration. Many of them were numbered as editioned prints. Signed from Walter and his wife Denise.

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card Envelope, 1986

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card, 1986

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card and Envelope, 1983

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Envelope

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 Walter Hoyle – Christmas Card

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 Michael Rothenstein – Christmas Card & Design for Faber and Faber, 1962

The note below is from Michael Rothenstein to David Bland of Faber and Faber. Faber were planning the Christmas card in June as the letter is dated 28th of that month. The picture above shows the finished design to the left and the prototype to the right. 

Here is a further rough of the Christmas tree idea. I want to make the star at the top of the main image: star of Bethlehem, star of hope, of joy, as well as the star of morning, the tree, for me this is the most potent Christmas image….

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Below are two Christmas cards from Kenneth Rowntree his wife Diana and family.

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 Kenneth Rowntree – Christmas Card

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 Kenneth Rowntree – Christmas Card

Below are some more images from other Great Bardfield artists.

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 John Aldridge – Christmas Card

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 Shelia Robinson – Christmas Card Design

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 Michael Rothenstein – Christmas Card

Edward Bawden Documentary

Here is a documentary on Edward Bawden, Broadcast on Anglia TV in November 1983. It shows Bawden in his studio and house, talking of his war work and life in art and design.

John Nash in WW2

At the beginning of the Second World War Nash served in the Observer Corps, moving to the Admiralty in 1940 as an official war artist with the rank of Captain in the Royal Marines. He was promoted acting major in 1943, and relinquished his commission in November 1944.

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 John Nash – An Advanced Post, Night, 1918

There is so much written about the paintings John Nash produced for the First World War but little on the Second. In a previous blog-post I noted that John Nash and Eric Ravilious both painted docks together in 1938 and also their letters to each other on both being invited to be war artists.

In a long interview given to the Imperial War Museum on a reel-to-reel tape machine, Nash explains this time:

The First World War paintings were the result of actual vivid experience, Second World War paintings were really more commissioned and hadn’t a very war like aspect at all. 

Questioner: You were sent specifically to do a particular subject in the Second World War?

Yes I was sent to Plymouth to paint objects in the Dock Yard, and of course it’s a very beautiful dockyard and was then full of very handsome figureheads both outside in the grounds and also in some of the buildings. 

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 John Nash – Study of ‘Pump Room’, Plymouth Dock Yards.

But the trouble was there was a spy scare at the time, it was the period of the ‘phoney war’ and I was constantly being asked for my papers and in one case positively  arrested although I was dressed up as a Royal Marine Captain, and after a time this rather got me down. In one case I actually felt afraid to do any drawing and didn’t do it when the ‘Hood’ battleship came in. I thought I must go and have a look and see if anything can be done about the ‘Hood’, I was really in a state of nerves by then that I didn’t do it – I didn’t do anything at all. 

It was largely the fault of spy scares, especially amongst the dockyard ‘maties’ as they called them (men working the dockyard) who report one to the marine police on the slightest provocation. “These’s an officer there making plans” they said, I was drawing in a sketchbook you see. So at Mountbatten – the seaplane base I was arrested and marched around the camp until released by a friendly R.A.F commandant who told the officer who arrested me he got the wrong man. 

But I got rather tired of this and I decided to go on elsewhere and leave Plymouth and I went to Cardiff, where they said they had nothing for me to do and from there to Swansea. I put up in a hotel in Swansea and the Staff Officer of operations there knew something of my work and knew something about me and he came out straight away to see me at the hotel and said “we don’t like you to be in this hotel (I won’t mention it) on account of security reasons, we’ll find you somewhere else to go to” and they installed me in a delightful hotel in Mumbles. But I had a very good time at Swansea because they had a awful lot to do at Swansea and were quite prepared to welcome official War Artists as a sort of additional pleasurable occupation. He kept thinking up things for me to draw and sending cars around to take you here and there, it was really very pleasant.

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 John Nash – HMS Oracle at Anchor

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 John Nash – Study for HMS Oracle at Anchor

I was taken up to draw a very big merchant ship which have been toed up one of the rivers there and split in half by a bomb I think… I drew this thing high and dry on the mud and then went again with the Naval numbers to see her dragged off the mud by seven tugs and then went in a car with them and drew her as she was being toed Triumphantly down the river by one tug by then. 

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John Nash –  Bristol Channel, with Tug Boat in the distance.

When we came back from this trip up and down the Bristol Channel we tied up in the dockyard and everybody got ready to have a (party) changed their clothes and the port was bought out and having a nice sort of evening when there was a ‘Purple Air Alarm’ and we went out on deck to see what was happening and there was a terrific explosion and everybody fell flat on the deck and the bomb landed at the end of the dock. 

After that the number one officer said “I must go out and see what the Captain is doing, I think he’s gone out firefighting” ‘cause fires had started in the dock and I said “well I’ll come too.” And we spent the whole night- up to three o’clock in the morning – firefighting, dragging hoses about and what is really illustrated in that painting there.

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 John Nash – Study for A Dockyard Fire

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 John Nash – A Dockyard Fire.

(I was) drawing in a detached way, but didn’t seem much to be like war, not that I am a fire-eater in any way. It seemed to be rather (like a) peace time occupation in the middle of a war. 

The pictures that come from the Second World War were observational documents much in the style of the Recording Britain project. During WW1 Nash was a young man but by the time of WW2 he was in his late forties and the army were less interested in giving him an active brief and they refused him opportunities to serve with the troops overseas. It maybe that the pictures Nash did for the Second World War became detached and stylishly posed but have little might or drama to interest the museums and thus also the public too.

I gave it up. I got tired of the whole thing and gave it up. I asked the Royal Marines Office to get me a job which was not an artist’s job, and so I was sent to Rosyth. It was an absolute change of life and I didn’t do any painting, really, for four years. 

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Destroyer in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Destroyer in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Scrap’

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 John Nash – Scrap

 John Nash – French Submarine “La Creole” in Swansea Dock, 1940

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 John Nash – Convoy Scene

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Small Vessel in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘From the Wheelhouse’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Timber’

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 John Nash – Study for Arming a Merchantman

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John Nash would be able to return to his war work in 1947 when making an illustration for the Handbook of Printing by W S Cowell. He was illustrating The Harbours of England by John Ruskin. The figure head from the ship is clearly taken from Study of ‘Pump Room’, Plymouth Dock Yards.

IWM –  Nash, John Northcote (Oral history)
Ronald Blythe – John Nash at Wormingford p12
W S Cowell – Handbook of Printing, 1947

The Art in Bawden’s Home

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The art that Edward Bawden filled his home with were mostly the pictures of the friends he made during his life; from Paul Nash to his son Richard.

Some of these works can be seen from the photographs taken when Bawden died, but also from the many watercolours of his house in Saffron Walden as seen in last week’s post.

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 The Living Room, 2 Park Lane, Saffron Walden, 1985

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This is a picture of the corridor and a cupboard full of glasses and pottery. Bawden’s wife Charlotte Epton studied pottery with the Leach’s in Cornwall so it is likely it is part of her collection. To the right there is a print of Kew by Bawden.

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 Edward Bawden – The Palmhouse, Kew Gardens, 1950

It was said Bawden’s wife Charlotte had a flair for decoration at Brick House but with his move to Saffron Walden after her death the house on Park Lane was decorated to his own tastes. Bawden used his reserve of Wallpaper stock to decorate many of the rooms in 2 Park Lane, Saffron Walden.

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As shown with the various views of the sitting room in the photos and watercolours, the walls were lined with shelves of studio pottery and framed pictures.

In the photo above on the wall above the table in the centre is a large print by John Norris Wood ‘Country Garden Butterflies’ of a poise of flowers with butterflies around it. It turns out that within Edward’s lifetime there was a Eric Ravilious on the wall of a Harlequin but on his death Edward left it to Anne Ullman, Eric Ravilious’s daughter who later sold it to the Fry Gallery. ♠ When Bawden died and the Harlequin removed it was replaced with the John Norris Wood that Bawden much have also owned.

 Eric Ravilious – Harlequin, 1928

This Ravilious watercolour was part of the preparatory work for the commission of a mural for the Refectory at Morley College, London.

To the left of that image at the top is a set of four framed wood engravings by Paul Nash from the Nonesuch Press book ‘Genesis’, 1924, printed at the Curwen Press. How Bawden came to own them is quoted below:

The Curwen Press used Bawden’s patterns for wallpapers and were the earliest designs printed from linocuts by Edward Bawden. Paul Nash offered him support at the Royal College and exchanged five of his engravings for five of Bawden’s wallpaper patterns.

Below the four ‘Genesis’ wood engravings is an engraving of ‘The Bay’, 1923. Through the archway and the Hoya Carnosa, hanging below the light and above the chair is a print by Edward’s son Richard, of the Aldeburgh Martello Tower.

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 Paul Nash – The Bay, 1923

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 Paul Nash – Let the earth bring forth the creatures, 1924

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 John Norris Wood – Country Garden Butterflies

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 Richard Bawden – The Martello Tower, Aldeburgh

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In the photograph above, framed on the wall is Edward’s large print of ‘The Pagoda, Kew Gardens’ looking bold with it’s bloody red roof is provides a strong colour scheme for the room and the Persian red carpets and would be opposite the print of ‘The Palmhouse’, as pictured above.

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 Edward Bawden – The Pagoda, Kew Gardens, 1963

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Here in this room the walls are lined with the wallpaper Edward Bawden worked with John Aldridge on called ‘Grid and Cross / Waffle (Green)’, printed by Cole and Son Ltd.

The framed pictures are wood engravings by Eric Ravilious. These where for the 1933 Golden Houses Press publication of ‘The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta’ by Christopher Marlowe.

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 Eric Ravilious – Barabas in his Counting-house, 1933

This wood engraving was shown and for sale at the Society of Wood Engravers 14th show where the catalogue lists the print as ‘Wealthy Moore’.

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 Eric Ravilious – A charge, The cable cut, A cauldron discovered, 1933.

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 Edward Bawden – Grid and Cross & Waffle (Green), 1938 

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 Edward Bawden – Cat among Pigeons, 1986

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Pictured at the end of ‘Cat among Pigeons’ is the door to the bathroom and the stairwell to the ground floor. The pictures on the wall are a lithograph by Chagall and again, one of Bawden’s own prints. A small print of St Peter’s Basilica is in the bottom right corner of the photo. The wallpaper is ‘Wood Pigeon’ one of the Plaistow Wallpapers that was later printed by Cole and Son Ltd.

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 Marc Chagall – Donkey & the Eiffel Tower, 1954

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 Edward Bawden – Albert Bridge, 1966

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 Edward Bawden – Wood Pigeon, 1927

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In the bedroom is the portrait of Edward Bawden that his friend Phyllis Dodd painted in 1929. Dodd would marry one of Bawden’s many biographers, Douglas Percy Bliss.

In 1929 she painted a likeness of Bawden sitting stiffly in his best suit and then she made portraits of Ravilious and later still his wife. 

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 Phyllis Dodd – Edward Bawden, 1929

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In this room upon a large Victorian chest of drawers there are two oil lamps and a set of Staffordshire figurines, behind them is one of the rarer Bawden prints of ‘Grasses in a Jug’. The wallpaper is by Bawden, ‘Riviera’ from 1929.

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 Edward Bawden – Grasses in a Jug, 1967

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 Edward Bawden – Riviera, 1929

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In this room with the Chest of Drawers of the photo above to the right we can see two more of Bawden’s own prints and to the right a Mary Fedden picture that looks like a nocturnal view of her print ‘The Lamp, 1972′.

In the centre the door is opening on to Bawden’s studio.

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 Edward Bawden – Kew Palace, London, 1983

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 Edward Bawden – The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1956

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Here is a side view of the studio with picture racks and large artwork boards and tables to work from.

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 Edward Bawden – Roses and Rue, 1987

One of the most telling paintings is ‘Roses and Rue’. Bawden had no TV as he was profoundly deaf so most of his news came from copies of The Guardian. Painted in his studio it shows a tray of paints in the top left corner.

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† David McKitterick – Wallpapers by Edward Bawden, 1989.
Malcolm Yorke – Edward Bawden and his Circle, 2005
Bawden House Photographs c/o The Fry Gallery and Weeping Ash
♠ Art Fund – Harlequin by Eric Ravilious

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.

Eric, John and the War.

In 1940 Eric Ravilious became one of the first official war artists. During the summer he was posted to HMS ‘Dolphin’ in Gosport, drawing the interiors of submarines and sometimes sent out to sea. He had already conceived the idea of a set of submarine lithographs intended as a children’s painting book, and in November he set to work.

The drawings inevitably lack the distinctive texture and colour of the lithographs. In this post they are set next to the finished lithographs with the colours and textures produced at W. S. Cowell Ltd over the original drawn and watercoloured pictures by Ravilious. But we must start first with his appointment as a war artist:

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 Eric Ravilious – Drawing for Commander and Periscope, 1941

Dear Ravilious,                                                         23rd December, 1939
You may have heard rumours of a scheme which is now being launched for having various phases of the war recorded by selected artists working for the Government. The Admiralty has already appointed one official whole-time artist, and you and John Nash have been selected to work for the Admiralty on a part-time basis, if you should be willing. We very much hope that the idea will appeal to you; indeed it would be a great disappointment to the Admiralty, the Ministry of Information, and, I may add, myself, if you should feel unable or unwilling to undertake work of this kind. 

If you should be willing, please let me know here as soon as you can and tell me when you could come and see me to discuss details. From our point of view, the sooner you get to work the better. Perhaps I should say that the Treasury have already approved the necessary expenditure.

Yours sincerely
            R. Gleadowe

During World War II Reginald Gleadowe was an Admiralty representative on the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

Below is a letter from fellow artist (and Ravilious’s tutor) John Nash. Nash had been a war artist in the First World War found himself being asked to become a war artist again.

My dear Eric,
  I was at the M.of l. (Ministry of Information) on Friday playing truant part of the time from College and heard from Dickey that you had been there. I don’t suppose I have anything more to report than you have they talk of sending us a ‘contract letter’ but that only deals with the finance and I have heard nothing from the Admiralty since I went there. When I was there I broached the subject of commissioned rank to Gleadowe and there seemed no difficulties. Captainships seemed as cheap as farthing buns and it seemed as if one only missed being made a Major because one had to recognize Muirhead Bone’s seniority! But I begin to doubt now if Gleadowe really has the authority to promise these insignia – we must continue to wait and see I suppose… .
  I went to College yesterday and saw most of ‘the boys’. Form was good or even above average and Percy [Horton] made a fine story of a week spent teaching the Punch artist H. M. Bateman to paint. Dickey tells me that the Army War Artists are to be dressed in War Correspondents’ uniform with W.C. on the hat band rather shaming so I’m glad you and l are in the Senior Service!

Let me know if you hear anything fresh.
Yours ever,
               John

It is fitting that they both should be chosen so early for this as a lot of the work for both of them was to be painting docks and the boats. Below are paintings each by Ravilious and Nash. They had got to know each other at the Royal College of Art, where Ravilious was a pupil and now they were both on the staff. A year before Gleadowe’s invitation, and on Nash’s recommendation they both went to sketch at Bristol Docks. They painted the same location at night, when the docks were quiet and the boats tied up.

John Nash had been much inspired by painting in Bristol, and he told Eric it was the best port in England, so they planned together a painting visit there. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Bristol Docks, 1938

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 John Nash – Nocturne: Bristol Docks’, November 1938 

The Second World War, unlike the First, was not much recorded by printmakers and the Ravilious Submarine series, perhaps the most important such work, was eventually turned down for publication by the Artists Advisory Committee.

The difference of print-making in WW1 and painting in WW2 was that in WW2 the Blitz brought the war to the artists, they could see defences, barrage balloons and blitz bomb damage while still in Britain and record it with most of their materials at hand. The paintings and drawings were recorded quickly as a reaction. In contrast to the prints made in WW1 mostly depicted life in France and Belgium on the front-lines. Works would have to be sketched out and when back in Britain, the prints made from memory and worked up from sketchbook studies for a wider publication. The bridge of a month would mean that the art of WW1 was already retrospective of conditions. People living in the south of England would have been aware of defences, blacked out road signs, and the blitz.

Much of what we know from the process of the lithographic Submarine series comes from letters sent to Dickey (Edward Montgomery O’Rorke Dickey.) At the beginning of the Second World War ‘Dickey’ was seconded from the Ministry of Information and, from 1939 to 1942, was secretary of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He was a full member of the committee from 1942 to 1945. During this period he established his close relationship with Eric Ravilious.

Bank House, Castle Hedingham, Essex                      24th January 1940.
Dear Dickey,
The Curwen Press have sent me an estimate for the lithographs I spoke to you about – to do six, in five workings each about 15″ x 22″ will cost £36. This seems reasonable to me, if your committee think the idea a good one. Paints and materials will bring the total expenses to, say, £40; so that the choice is actually between £4 or £40, whatever they feel inclined to do. I very much want to do some lithography if that is possible, also it will make a change of medium. Will they call on us to begin work soon, do you think? It is now I see just a month today since the Admiralty wrote about this appointment, and nothing more seems to have happened since then. ♠

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 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #1, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #1, Lithograph, 1941

HMS Dolphin, Gosport, Hans.                                        2nd August 1940.
…At the moment I am living here having been to sea at different times for the last two weeks in the submarine, trying to draw interiors. Some of them may be successful I hope, but conditions are difficult for work. It is awfully hot below when they dive and every compartment small and full of people at work. However this is a change from destroyers and I enjoy the state of complete calm after the North Sea – there is no roll or movement at all in submarines, which is one condition in their favour, apart from the smell, the heat and noise. The scene is extraordinarily good in a gloomy way. There are small coloured lights about the place and the complexity of a Swiss clock…

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 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #2, Lithograph, 1941

Dear Dickey
…Neither Curwen, Ripley, Murray or Lane can produce these submarine pictures, for all sorts of reasons, so I’ve not abandoned the idea of a book and yesterday went to see the lithographic printers at Ipswich. They will produce the things simply as pictures in a small edition for £100; and if I can manage it this shall be done…
The Leicester Gallery say that they are willing to sell the lithographs if I produce them, so that with luck (if they are not bombed meanwhile) it may pay the expenses. ♣ 

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 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Lithograph, 1941

The final lithographs were printed in a small run in 1941. In 1996 a limited edition reprinting of 375 was made. Ravilious died in 1942, he was reported missing, presumed dead while on flight over Iceland. He was 39 years of age.

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 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Lithograph, 1941

Had Ravilious’s idea of a children’s book proceeded it is hard to tell if it would have been just outlines of the men and nautical instruments or with the base watercolour and pencil drawings that he used for the lithographs. Either-way a child could paint over with their own colours. That is really what the printers at

W. S. Cowell Ltd did with the lithographs anyway.

Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist – By Helen Binyon
The Modern Spirit in British Printmaking, 1910-1950. Garton & Cooke, 1987
Submarine Dream – Lithographs and Letters – The Camberwell Press, 1996
Avant-garde British printmaking, 1914-1960

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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Eddie Marsh

Last summer I was reading ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’ by David Boyd Haycock, it is a wonderful layer-cake of young artists lives as they study at the Slade School of Art on the eve of the First World War and a book I recommend to all to read.

Many of the artists featured are supported by a patron, Eddie Marsh, who not only bought their work but he entertained them and introduced them to people in society who would advance their careers.

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Marsh was a strange and unique person. In his career as a civil servant he worked as Private Secretary to a succession of Great Britain’s most powerful ministers, particularly Winston Churchill.

He was the sponsor of the Georgian school of poets and a friend to many poets, including Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon. He was a discreet but influential figure within Britain’s homosexual community.

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 Matthew Smith – Woman Reclining, c.1925–6

Some of the money Marsh had to spend on art was the remainder of a family legacy from the death of his great-grandfather, Spencer Perceval in 1812, the only British prime minister to have been assassinated. Parliament voted to settle £50,000 on Perceval’s children (today it would be around 8 million), with additional annuities for his widow and eldest son. 100 years later and Marsh was using the money to buy art.

Although Spencer Perceval possessed six sons and six daughters, some portion of this grant drifted down to Eddie Marsh through his mother. He refused to use any of what he called ‘the murder money’ for his personal requirements; it was from this fund that he bought, with taste and knowledge, the collections with which he has now enriched the public. †

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 William Roberts – Sam Rabin vs Black Eagle, 1934

After Marsh’s death in 1953 his friends collected accounts of him and published a booklet, edited by Christopher Hassall and Denis Mathews. As it is long out of publication, I have typed up John Rothenstein’s piece on Marsh’s art collecting below. All the pictures in this post were owned by Marsh.

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 Mark Gertler – Agapanthus, 1914

John Rothenstein on Eddie Marsh

There is a serious disadvantage to an upbringing in an artist’s household. Paintings, drawings, sculpture are apt to be so ubiquitous that they may fail to excite. My father being a painter and also a collector, it seemed to me in my early years that works of art were for the most part little more than part of the furnishing of our house. It is true, however, that when I visited other houses and found dull pictures on the walls or none at all, I was aware of an almost piercing sense of bleakness. But when I first visited Eddie Marsh’s chambers at Gray’s Inn, it was with no sense of bleakness but with the consciousness of something amounting almost to a new experience that I looked at his pictures.

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 Stanley Spencer – Apple Gatherers, 1912-13

I had not come to look at his pictures; I don’t suppose I was aware that he possessed any. Like many other young men I had come, either shortly before or after leaving Oxford, to consult this benevolent oracle about the perplexing problem of how best to spend my life. I can’t recall any word of advice he gave; but I do recall, almost as clearly as though it were yesterday, the immediate fascination exercised by the pictures which hung, frame to frame, from floor to ceiling, covering every vertical space, not only of wall but of door, and, no less clearly, the kindness with which Eddie responded to the interest his pictures stirred in me. We looked at everything there was to see. And what things there were! Wilson’s Summit of Cader Idris (his bequest of which to the National Gallery, he said, lent an added pleasure to his visits there, that of choosing the place where his ghost would see it on the walls) and Blake’s Har and Heva batbing.

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 Richard Wilson – Cader Idris, 1774 (Exhibited)

But it was the contemporaries that gave me the sharpest and most pleasurable shock: the works of painters with whom I already had some acquaintance. There were the splendid Self Portrait and the The Apple-gathers by Stanley Spencer (an artist who had not yet held an exhibition), The Dancer: and Parrot Tulip’s by Duncan Grant, The Cornfeild by John Nash, a water-colour of tall trees by his brother Paul, and a lamp-lit bedroom by Gertler.

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 John Nash – The Cornfield, 1918

The spectacle of so many line examples of the work of an emerging generation of painters, displayed with such affectionate, admiring confidence strengthened the impression I had that there was a school of painting in England deserving of much more respect than most of my contemporaries were inclined to accord to it.

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 Henry Moore – Woman Seated with Hands Clasped, 1929

My visit was followed by several others, but it was not until many years later that I came to know him well, when I had the good fortune to be associated with him in the running of two institutions particularly dear to him: the Tate Gallery, of which he was a Trustee from 1937 until 1944 and Acting Chairman during 1940 and 1941, and the Contemporary Art Society, of which he was Chairman from 1937 until 1952.

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 Duncan Grant – Parrot Tulips, 1911

What made this association particularly delightful for those who had a part in it was Eddie’s attitude towards these two institutions. For him the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society were never primarily institutions at all; they were friends to be fought for, to be enriched by his generosity and, from time to.time, to be gently chided. And as such they responded to his friendship with gratitude and affection.

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 Duncan Grant – The Dancers, 1911

Eddie was not only loved at both the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society, but he reposed in them a special degree and quality of trust. He was capable of a catholicity of taste that at moments provoked his friends to wonder whether there was any work of art which he didn’t like. In his heart, however, he remained faithful to the artists the Spencer and the Nash brothers, Grant, Gertler, and their contemporaries who had first aroused in him the lust of possession.

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 Paul Nash – Elms, 1914

The works of later painters he often, as he confessed, ‘took great though often in efficacious pains to understand and enjoy’; yet he never expected art to be changeless, and he desired the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society to collect in accordance with their most imperative convictions, whether or not these happened to conform to his own.

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 Christopher Wood – Siamese Cats, 1927

The last time I saw him, on is December 1952 at the last meeting of the Society’s Executive which he attended, it had been resolved, as a tribute to his unique services, to commission a portrait of him by Graham Sutherland.

A message from the artist was read out willingly accepting the commission but regretting that he could not undertake it until the autumn of 1953. In a voice that arrested by its intense melancholy Eddie exclaimed, ‘The sands are running out’. In the silence that followed could be read his friends’ mournful recognition that he had spoken the truth. Four weeks later he was dead.

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 Stanley Spencer – Self Portrait, 1912

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 Walter Sickert – The New Bedford, 1915.

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 Cedric Morris – Breton Landscape,1927

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 Eric Ravilious – The Yellow Funnel, 1938

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 Walter Monnington – Study of a Woman, 1934

Eddie Marsh – Sketches for a composite literary portrait of Sir Edward Marsh, Lund Humphries, 1953
Paintings and Drawings from the Sir Edward Marsh Collection, The Contemporary Art Society 1953