Edward & Eric in Newhaven


 Eric Ravilious – Brighton Queen at Night, 1935

The problem with book publishing is the rights to images and the expense of paying various people for them, thankfully the internet has a different code of conduct so when I make these posts, I can use pictures that have been lost, even from the world of Pintrest. I try hard to find as many relevant images as I can per topic. I say because someone suggested it was an easy blog to write, but the art of it is the research of quotes and images and though a topic ploughed before this post took a while to compile.

There is a lot on Eric Ravilious in Newhaven in print but very little on Edward Bawden and his feelings of the town other than a few letters back and forth. I start with how both Edward and Eric came to be in Newhaven. But the dates of the Bawden pictures are all over the place as he made visits to Newhaven alone apparently without Eric.


 Edward Bawden – Ferryboat Entering Newhaven Harbour, 1935

Ravilious grew up in Sussex, in Eastbourne, where his parents had an antiques shop, studying first at the Eastbourne School of Art (1919-22) and then the Royal College of Art (1922-25), where he met his life-long friend Edward Bawden.

At this time in Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious lives they were living and painting together with their wives in Brick House, Great Bardfield, they were using the local area of Essex as a source of work but they both wanted some variety. In the summer of 1935 the pair went out to scout painting locations for trips. Harwich was location that didn’t delight.

Earlier in the summer Edward had suggested going to draw at Harwich with Eric, but when they went to look round it, they didn’t like it enough, and planned instead to go again to Newhaven, and stay at the Hope Inn. They would go at the beginning of August, after they had put up the end of year students’ exhibition in the design room at the college.

His (Eric) childhood association with Sussex was reignited by an invitation in 1934 from the artist and polymath Peggy Angus to stay in her shepherd’s hut, Furlongs, on the South Downs. 

From Furlongs Ravilious could easily meet up with Bawden for their trip to Newhaven as Ravilious was spending a lot of time at Furlongs painting watercolours for an exhibition later that year.

Newhaven was distinguished by a distinctive breakwater and seawall with lighthouses perched at each end. Ravilious’s predilection for the nautical was shared by many of his contemporaries.


 The Hope Inn, Newhaven, 1935

As in a previous post, I mentioned that for Ravilious, Sussex was convenient as a location, as he was lodging in two old caravans at Furlongs. For Bawden it would have been less convenient, it’s likely he came direct from Essex and met Ravilious in Newhaven. They lodged at the Hope Inn, a pub on the side of the cliffs and with a sea view on the edge of the town.

While Eric set to work painting ‘close up shots’ of boats and the edges of piers, Bawden’s work looked more widescreen and panoramic. The works Bawden were painting was rather playful and modern, a range of odd perspectives seamed to challenge him, the boat at a strange angle, looking down a hillside and the litter of boats and yardware made for a really interesting series of works.


 Edward Bawden – September Noon Newhaven, 1935

From Furlongs, Ravilious made trips to paint at Newhaven, spending a slightly gruelling August and September at the Hope Inn with Bawden in September 1935. Bawden painted a stormy sea breaking over harbour moles, but Ravilious preferred the Victorian paddle steamers and dredgers with fine names like ‘Brighton Queen’, ‘The James’ and ‘The Foremost Prince’ which worked from Brighton Pier in the summer and were laid up at Newhaven out of season. ♥


 A montage of Edward Bawden’s picture and below a ‘lost’ Eric Ravilious painting of Newhaven, Dredgers, 1935. 


 Edward Bawden – September: 8:30pm (Newhaven), 1935

Directly Eric got to Newhaven, a terrific storm blew up, the worst for years. He walked to the end of the jetty to look at the lighthouse: ‘The spray from the breakers crashing on the weather-side of the breakwater was a quite extraordinary sight – I got very wet and think now it was almost a dangerous walk out there, but worth it.


 Edward Bawden – September: 11am, 1937


 Edward Bawden – September: Noon 1937


 Edward Bawden – Newhaven No. 2, 1935


 Eric Ravilious – Channel Steamer Leaving, 1935

Below are a few views form old photographs and postcards of Newhaven around the same time and showing the things Eric painted below.


 Photograph of Newhaven Harbour, c1930.


 Postcard of Newhaven Harbour, c1900.


 Photograph of the Signal Station and Lighthouse on Newhaven Pier, c1960

These photographs above have various views around the watercolour, lithograph and woodcut below. It would show Ravilious again using and cycling the same subject matter for various commissions.


 Eric Ravilious – Newhaven Harbour, 1935

The painting above was bought from the Zwemmer Gallery by Beryl Sinclair, nee Bowker. She studied with Edward and Eric at the Royal College of Art. She was known as Bowk. Ravilious painted her twice that we know, once into the Colwyn Bay Pier Murals by Ravilious in the kitchen with a plant and then again in one of the ‘lost’ Ravilious oil painting – ‘Bowk at the sink’, 1929-30.

Newhaven Harbour is everything you would want from a 1930s watercolour. The buildings look like Oliver Hall modernist houses in white with cubes and curves but in fact is Victorian. The lighthouse was built in 1885 and pulled down in 1976. It looks like a stage set design. The rigging and black circles where part of a semaphore signal that shows when the tide is in and out to boats wanting to enter or leave the harbour.


 Eric Ravilious – Newhaven Harbour (detail), 1935

When asked to produce a print for Contemporary Lithographs, Ravilious made what he called a Homage to Seurat, a print made of a spongy sky and the typical halftone lines of colour over layered.


 Eric Ravilious – Newhaven Harbour, 1937 – Contemporary Lithographs.

When approached to illustrate the Country Life Cookery Book in the same year of the Lithograph above, Ravilious took the details of his previous works and added seafood and a basket of fish emblazoned with the name of the town.


 Eric Ravilious – February, Wood-engraving for the Country Life Cookery Book, 1937


 Edward Bawden – September: 7PM, 1937

Staying at The Hope Inn in 1935 must have been a bit dull. But the next year the building would be pulled down and in it’s place a totally modernist building put up.

Eric Neve K.C., on behalf of the Ports-all United Breweries, made an application for the approval plans of proposed alterations to the Hope Inn, Newhaven. He said this was a desire to improve the accommodation of the existing house.

In a letter to Eric, Edward writes:

Meals and service have brightened; gone are those soft, stale oyster-eyed eggs and there is is less water and more gravy with the meat. ♦

Below is a picture of the then, new Hope Inn. White and modernist. At the time Newhaven was a popular way of crossing the channel to France.


 The Hope Inn, Newhaven, 1936

During the Second World War Ravilious became a War Artist and he found himself in Newhaven again to sketch and paint the coastal defences.


 Eric Ravilious – Coastal Defences, 1940


 Eric Ravilious – Coastal Defences, Harbour Breakwater, 1940 


 Eric Ravilious – Coastal Defences, Convoy Leaving Harbour, 1940

† Helen Binyon – Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist, 1983
Sothebys – Eric Ravilious
Alan Powers – Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities, 2012
 Sussex Agricultural Express – Friday 07 February 1936
Letter from Edward Bawden to Eric Ravilious, 1936

Ravilious in Rye

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.

The Cement Works


 Eric Ravilious – Tea at Furlongs, 1939

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