• Ravilious in Pictures - ‘The War Paintings’ by James Russell

    Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) died whilst on active service in Iceland. This book is a selection of the pictures he produced whilst appointed to the Admiralty as an Official War Artist, a post he held from 1939 until his death.

    The pictures cover a wide range of subjects, from fishing trawlers towing barrage balloons, to Observer Posts on land much like that which he portrayed so beautifully before the war. Each picture is accompanied by a brief essay by James Russell. Far from the usual twaddle written about art, these are easy to read, and are as much about Ravilious, his life and career as they are about the pictures.

    I found the pictures fascinating. Initially so simple, the more I looked, the more I saw. Ravilious covers wide open spaces and seascapes with interesting light, as well as the exhaustion and cramped conditions in the dark submarine in ‘Ward Room No. 1’. There’s a superb picture of the Ark Royal firing a broadside, and yet the same love and care was put into a picture of a shiny golden ship’s propeller on a railway truck on a dark night.

    Cpl Stediford's Pigeon Loft

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    In pictures like ‘Bombing the Channel Ports’, it’s easy to see that Ravilious had studied with John and Paul Nash, but Ravilious is no copy cat, he has his own style, and it’s rather beautiful. One of my particular favourites is ‘Cpl. Stediford’s Mobile Pigeon Loft’, pictured here (hopefully!). For me it sums up the artist’s attention to detail, his skill with light and dark, and the ghostly soldiers in the background make me wonder about their fates. Of course, there is a slight shed element to this picture too!

    This book is one of a trilogy, and was a bonus added to my requested volume ‘Sussex and the Downs’. It is a beautiful hardback, printed on high quality paper, and an excellent addition to your library whether you are a fan of this artist or someone who ‘doesn’t know much about art, but knows what they like’.

    I have been so impressed by the two books that I shall spend my remaining Christmas vouchers on the third volume ‘The Story of the High Street’ where James Russell has gone back to find the shops that Ravilious painted in the thirties.

    4 wine glasses


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