Eric Ravilious Carried On

the Knife Grinder
Eric Ravilious’ unpublished design for the Adhesive Stamp Centenary, 1940

Some of the subject icons Ravilious created for Everyman's Library.
These and more at the Collecting Everyman's Library site

shopfronts done for High Street, 1938

Ravilious was attracted to the light and radiance of the Sussex Downs
Not to forget he was an artist during wartime, this landscape is titled "Shelling by night", 1941

Eric Ravilious (1903—1942), British painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver, was inspired by the Sussex Downs of Southern England. His watercolors of the chalk paths and gentle scenery of the area are both serene and slightly discomfiting. There's an echo of the American Regionalism style of the same time, but Ravilious never seems to veer into what I think of as the Americans' fairy tale robustness or swirling animism. His is a quiet mysticism, drawing power from the ancient landscape and particular light.

Ravilious' commercial art on the other hand has a homey cheerfulness. There's a wonderful "Carry On" celebration of Britishness and day-to-day life in his series of storefronts, published as High Street by the Curwen Press. (All 24 lithograph views from High Street can be seen
here.) He did work for Wedgwood with an extremely appealing child-like sensibility. He created wood cut spot illustrations, patterns and icons for the popular "Everyman's Library" imprint and designed for London Transport, among other highly visible —and quotidien—clients.

Ravilious was also an "Official War Artist"* during WWII  and received a commission in the Royal Marines. He was killed in September 1942 on a rescue mission with the Royal Air Force in the North Atlantic off the coast of Iceland.//

An excerpt from a beautiful essay by British essayist and travel writer Robert MacFarlane (which I found here):
Ravilious…Downsman, follower of old paths and tracks, lover of whiteness and of light, and a visionary of the everyday…’The Downs’, he wrote once, ‘ shaped my whole outlook and way of painting because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious’. ..He made expeditions, slept out and walked for hours following the lines of the Downs, their ridges, rivers and tracks…
The light of the Downs is distinctive for its radiance, possessing as it does the combined pearlescence of chalk, grass blades and a proximate sea. If you have walked on the Downs in high summer or high winter, you will know that Downs’ light also has a peculiar power to flatten out the view – to render scattered objects equidistant.... In these respects the light of the Downs is kindred with another flattening light, the light of the polar regions, which usually falls at a slant and is similarly fine-grained. The light and the path: the flattening (the light) and the beckoning (the path). These are Ravilious’s signature combinations as an artist.
* Did the United States have Official Artists for the war? Any war? It seems so odd— 'go out while people are getting killed and sketch.' But there were official photographers I suppose...


Sister Shirley said...

Gorgeous work! Especially love the restrained use of color. Thanks!

Doug Clouse said...

The work is modern yet crafty and tied to a place. Wonderful... it makes me want to make things. And visit the Luminor Sign Co.!


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