Ravilious by James Russell - review by Nick Hayes

Nick Hayes

Painting the Void



Philip Wilson 192pp £25 order from our bookshop

Eric Ravilious loved the edgelands. He would stake them out beforehand on his bike, plan his trip, often get up before dawn and take himself to where nobody else had cause to be – deserted yards of old Sussex buses, empty harbours, Brecon waterwheels. Then he would sit there for hours. He would take his drawings back to his studio and again he would sit for hours, working them into watercolours, layering wash upon wash, stippling, hatching, scalpelling, applying himself to the paper. There is a silence to his work, a stillness that is almost surreal. (Ravilious was influenced by Paul and John Nash; Paul especially dabbled with surrealism, which was flaring across Europe at the time.)

In his excellent catalogue notes to the new exhibition of Ravilious watercolours at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, James Russell describes his subject’s work as ‘depictions not only of a place, but of a place in which something is about to happen, or has just occurred’. We see rooms without their

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