The Wood Engravings of Eric Ravilious
Lion and Unicorn Press: England, 1972
This rare and beautifully produced, folio format (420 x 295mm) book was designed by John Carrod for Lion and Unicorn Press, the Royal College of Art’s press. It is printed on heavy Grosvenor Chater’s Basingwerk Parchment paper.
The copy held in the Rare Books collection at UCA’s Farnham campus library is number 99 of a limited edition of 500. This was the first and only edition ever printed. It includes an informative introduction by the architect J.M. Richards, a friend and contemporary of the artist.
Eric Ravilious (1903 -1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He studied under Paul Nash at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s. He is associated with the neo-romanticism movement, along with contemporaries Stanley Spencer, Edward Bawden, John Craxton and others.
He was particularly renowned for his wood-block prints and his watercolours. He also undertook ceramic designs for Wedgwood and designed graphics for London Transport.
Much of his work was inspired by the landscape of the South Downs in Sussex. Amongst other rural themes, he made a number of engravings depicting the chalk hillside figure of the Long Man of Wilmington, as illustrated above.
The book contains 421 block prints which represent all of Ravilious’ engraved work for which copies could be found. Many of Ravilious’ original wood blocks were destroyed or lost during World War II bombing of London.
Six of the prints in this book were made directly from Ravilious’ original wood blocks. For the other prints, blocks were specially made.
In World War II Ravilious was an official war artist. He was killed in September 1942, aged 39, while accompanying the Royal Air Force on a mission off the coast of Iceland.
A week before Eric Ravilious’ death his son James was born. James Ravilious (1939 -1999), a highly regarded photographer, was also inspired by the rural English landscape. He is known for his photo-essays on rural life in Devon in the 1960s and 1970s. See eStream for a documentary on James Ravilious (30 minutes).
On Saturday 17 November 2012 the Victoria & Albert Museum is holding a Ravilious Study Day to examine the works of Eric Ravilious and his contemporaries. For further details and tickets see the V&A website.
For further information on Eric Ravilious and his work see http://www.ericravilious.co.uk
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