Ravilious June 01 2015

I was lucky enough to attend the opening of the major show of work by Eric Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery, curated by James Russell, but the show deserved a second visit at a slightly quieter time.

I’ve always found Ravilious' work totally absorbing, whether his watercolours (which are the focus of this exhibition), his lithographs and wood engravings or his designs created for ceramics, glass and other commissioned work.

On my recent second visit to the exhibition it became so much clearer to me that these watercolours were made by a printmaker and designer. There's a sharpness and a clarity to the objects in his compositions and the palette is perhaps purposely restricted. Closer inspection reveals Ravilious is creating textures and patterns in the same way that he might when creating a lithograph.

It's hard to single out one single painting but a firm favourite would be 'Ship's Screw on a Railway Truck' (1940). Not a promising subject perhaps. The sculptural propellor gleams out from the blue and grey landscape. The top left had corner is a beautifully composed scene of ship moored by a curved harbour and tree which in itself would make a perfect engraving or motif on a Wedgwood plate. In the foreground there's a playful pattern of footprints in the snow and in the grey sky above, soft white snow flakes and diagonal marks depict this bleak winter scene in the same way that Ravilious might have drawn on a lithographic stone.

James Russell has brought together watercolours of landscapes, interiors, still lifes and Ravilious' work as a war artist too. There’s much to see that I think a third visit is definitely on the cards.

'Ravilious' is at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 31st August 2015. Visit their website for full details.

And find out more via curator James Russell's website.