Thursday, 24 August 2017

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship

I escaped London briefly to spend a day beside the seaside, (beside the sea!) in Eastbourne. As well as enjoying the fresh sea air, I was there to take in - Ravilious  & Co: The Pattern of Friendship, at the Towner Art Gallery. Ravilious's work has become so ubiquitous recently that there isn't really much new to say about him. This though, is one of the better of the recent exhibitions on Ravilious. Its main focus is primarily on Ravilious, but it enhances his reputation by also exhibiting the work of his wider artistic circle with contributions by John and Paul Nash, Edward Bawden, William Nicholson, and the lesser celebrated work of the women in that crowd such as Peggy Angus, Enid Marx, Phyllis Dodd and Helen Binyon. Phyllis Dodd's portraiture in particular was a revelation to me. As well as the example of Ravilious below, there were two other portraits of Bawden and Douglas Percy Bliss by Dodd, which I thought superbly displayed her talents both technically and aesthetically.

 Phyllis Dodd - Portrait of Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious - Channel Steamers Leaving Harbour, 1935

Eric Ravilious - The James and The Foremost Prince, 1934

Eric Ravilious - Beautiful Britain, calendar design, 1939

There are lots of examples of just how fantastic and versatile Ravilious was as both an artist and designer. His watercolour technique was so outstanding and descriptive, as was his decorative wood engraving style. There are also examples of his furniture design as well as the wonderful designs on ceramics which he completed for Wedgewood. Another fascinating aspect of this exhibition is the amount of artworks which have never been publicly exhibited before, or since the 1930s. The serene painting HMS Actaeon, below, is a recently discovered lost treasure by Ravilious.

Eric Ravilious - HMS Actaeon, 1942

Eric Ravilious - Monotype Corporation Calendar, 1933

Eric Ravilious - Horoscope Engraving

Eric Ravilious - UK Pavilion Catalogue for Paris International Exhibition, 1937

Eric Ravilious - Chair Design for Dunbar Hay made by Henry Harris, 1936

Other gems in this exhibition for me were these two examples of Bawden's watercolour technique. I liked the way in which he would scratch back into the wet paint to create interesting marks and textures. His flair for pattern-making and design was just as strong as Ravilious's. Bawden's designs for wallpapers were lovely, and it great to see that some of these will be revived and made available again later this year by textile/wallpaper companies St Jude's and CommonRoom. St Jude's in particular have been very instrumental in the current vogue and appreciation of all things mid-century.

Edward Bawden - Back Garden At Great Bardfield, 1936

Edward Bawden - The Pond Great Bardfield, 1933

Edward Bawden - Chestnut Sunday; Bushey Park, London Transport poster, 1936

 Edward Bawden - Waves & Fishes (Lagoon), 1929

 Edward Bawden - Sahara, 1928

Edward Bawden - Curwen Press Newsletter No. 9

The graphic work of Barnett Freedman is absolutely stunning. He just understood typography, and illustration so well, and combined these with processes such as lithography perfectly to create outstanding outcomes.

 Barnett Freedman - Trooping The Colour, 1937

Barnett Freedman - Curwen Press Newsletter No. 5

Barnett Freedman - Behold The Dreamer, book jacket design, 1939

William Rothenstein - Portrait of Barnett Freedman, 1925

 William Nicholson - Portrait of Diana Low, 1933

 Paul Nash - Black Poplar, 1922

 Diana Low - Portrait of William Nicholson - 1920-36

Helen Binyon - The Wire Fence, 1935

Enid Marx - Bulgy The Barrage Balloon, children's book 1941

Enid Marx - Cornucopia textile design,

Enid Marx - Zig-Zag textile design,

Tirzah Ravilious - Epton, marble paper design

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship, cements the reputation of the artist and also importantly showcases the work of unsung female artists in the circle who were forced to give up their careers to raise families, or were marginalised by galleries and the art market of the time. It's a really good display of art, and other design disciplines such as graphic design, illustration, textiles and furniture. Exhibition duly enjoyed, it was time to head back out into the sunshine to explore Eastbourne and hit the beach.

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship
until 17th September
Towner Art Gallery
Devonshire Park, College Road