From April to August 2015, the Dulwich Picture Gallery presented the watercolours of Eric Ravilious in this pioneering exhibition.
The exhibition of the work of Eric Ravilious, the revered Second World War War Artist has been a tremendously popular show for the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Opening in early April, I visited the exhibition on its last day at the end of August and even then, undeterred by the rain, people queued outside to get a last glimpse of the show.
Ravilious was born in London in1903 and as a small child, moved to Eastbourne, Sussex. In the course of his career he has been described as a painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He was educated under the teaching of Paul Nash at the RCA and Nash’s influence can be seen in the work on displayed in this exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
The show was primarily a show highlighting Ravilious’ watercolours and his paintings completed during the early Second World War when he served as an Official War Artist. It is described as “the first major exhibition to survey” his watercolours and there are over eighty painting on show. Ravilious’ death whilst out on RAF flight in 1942 in the midst of war maybe the reason why the war is such a poignant feature of this exhibition. Mixed with the more idyllic landscapes of Sussex before the war, this show present a contrast to between the innocent pre war days and the industrialised nature of war where Ravilious would perish for his work.
The show begins with a section called “Relics and Curiosites” featuring images of some of the objects which Ravilious found interesting. The exhibition then moves on to “Figures and Forms” showing Ravilious background in life drawing and some of the work he produced for Morley College. The following “Interiors” section was a highlight of mine, especially the painting The Greenhouses, Cyclamen and Tomatoes where the form of the greenhouse is so cleverly brought to life by the abundant plant life inside. This intricate treatment of the everyday by Ravilious; is so clear from this painting. After this was “Changing Perspectives” where he viewed objects from surprising angles such as in Belle Tout Interior where the Sussex Downs and English Channel are viewed from within the curved window.I n the final room, we see some of his darker war art as the war progressed for example in HMS Ark Royal in Action.
This exhibition was well worth the visit and is a clear example of the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s well curated and unique exhibitions.