Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)   BIOGRAPHY

Study for ‘Leaving Scapa Flow’ (recto); ‘The Firth of Forth’ (verso), circa 1940–41
Framed (ref: 2594)


Watercolour over pencil

171/4 x 23 in. (43.7 x 58.5 cm)


Provenance: Artist’s family until 2005; private collection.

Exhibited: Eastbourne Towner Art Gallery, extended loan; The Twentieth Century,
The Fine Art Society, London, October 2005 (cat. no. 24). 

Literature:Anne Ullmann (ed.), Ravilious atWar,The Fleece Press, Upper Denby, Huddersfield, 2002, illus. p. 101, no. 50. WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, FIG. 2, page 46.

During WW2 Ravilious was employed as a Ministry of Information artist specialising in Admiralty topics 

Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, and was the site of Britain’s chief naval base during the SecondWorldWar . Churchill ordered the construction of a series of causeways to block the eastern approaches after Scapa Flow was penetrated by German submarine U-47 in October 1939.

Ravilious refers to Leaving Scapa Flow in a letter to E.M.O’R. Dickey on 20 June 1940, as one of a series of watercolours intended for exhibition, probably for a war-effort show at the National Gallery, London, organised by the Artists’Advisory Committee (see Anne Ullmann [ed.], Ravilious atWar, Upper Denby 2002, p. 99).The finished watercolour is in the collection of Cartwright Hall, Bradford.

In July 1941, again attached to the Admiralty as an OfficialWar Artist, Ravilious painted on the Isle of May, in Scotland, near the Firth of Forth.Weekly east coast convoys formed there to make their hazardous voyages down to Sheerness in Kent.The Forth Bridge here is shown protected by Barrage Balloons. Ravilious was killed on 2 September 1942, accompanying a Royal Air Force air–sea rescue mission off Iceland.

On reverse;

Eric Ravilious (1903-1942)

Born in London he studied at the Eastbourne School of Art and at The Royal College of Art under Paul Nash, where Edward Bawden became a close friend. Initially a muralist (none of which has survived), he became widely known for his luminous watercolours, woodcuts, lithographs – notably his High Street Shops executed by the Curwen Press, (published by Country Life in 1938 in a book with a text by JM Richards, husband of Peggy Angus), ceramics for Wedgewood and graphics for London Transport, as well as glass and furniture design. Much inspired by the South Downs in East Sussex, he was a frequent visitor to Furlongs, the cottage of the artist Peggy Angus. In 1930 he married fellow artist ‘Tirzah’ Garwood, they then moved to rural Essex, at first sharing a house with the Bawdens. An official World War II artist and with a commission with the Royal Marines, he died while with an RAF air sea rescue mission to Iceland. His works are in the collections of numerous British museums and art galleries, the largest holding is at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne.

Selected Literature: Alan Powers, Eric Ravillious: Imagined Realities, Imperial War Museum, London, 2003.

See all works by Eric Ravilious