Eric Ravilious (1903 – 1942) British wood engraver & ceramicist

Eric William Ravilious (1903 – 1942) was a British wood engraver, watercolourist, and ceramics decorator. He is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs and other English landscapes. He served as a war artist and was the first British war artist to die on active service in World War II. Ravilious studied with Edward Bawden and Charles Mahoney at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London in 1928. He painted a series of marionette-like murals for Morley College, which were destroyed by bombing in 1941.

Education

He studied at the Eastbourne School of Art from 1919 to 1922 and at the Royal College of Art in London from 1922 to 1925 under Paul Nash and others.

Biography

He taught at the Royal College of Art from 1929 to 1939. His primary occupation was making wood engravings for book illustrations. Walter de la Mare’s The Elm Angel (1930), William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1932), The Kynoch Press Notebook and Diary (1933), and Gilbert White’s The Natural History of Selborne (1937) all featured his work.

Ravilious produced printers’ ornaments for the Curwen, Golden Cockrel, and Nonesuch presses, decorations for the BBC and London Transport Board publications, advertisements for Austin Reed, and book jackets for the publisher Duckworth all of which were influenced by Paul Nash’s work.

Commissions

  • Ravilious, Edward Bawden, and Cyril Mahoney collaborated on the Morley College refreshment room murals in 1928โ€“29. 
  • They designed the British pavilion wall decoration for the 1937 Paris’ Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne.’ 
  • He designed a Regency revival furniture suite for Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn’s London shop Dunbar Hay in 1936. 
  • His transfer-printed bucolic vignettes were over-painted in enamel colours on regular ceramic blanks when he got his first commission from Wedgwood in 1935. 
  • Stuart Crystal in Stourbridge commissioned him to design glassware in 1935. 

He became increasingly interested in watercolour painting in the late 1930s. In 1938, he started experimenting with colour lithography, which he began with his illustrations for High Street (1938). He was named an official war artist in 1940.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The Design Encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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