‘It’s This Old, Fatal Love for the Landscape’

A bucolic landscape – with barbed wire … Chalk Paths, by Eric Ravilious. Photograph: foxtrotfilms.com.

The quotation in my title is from nature writer Robert Macfarlane. His book The Old Ways featured British war artist Eric Ravilious, killed in a plane crash in 1942. In the book, Macfarlane “points to the way the artist would frame bucolic watercolours of the rolling southern English countryside with strands of barbed wire.” Chinese artist Ai Weiwei states that, although Ravilious’ paintings “seem like an understatement, they are profound, rigorous and meticulous.” (All these citations are from the Guardian article echoed here.)

Two Women in a Garden, by Eric Ravilious. Photograph: Fry Art Gallery/foxtrotfilms.com.

Words that are powerful with understatement were written by Ravilious’ widow Tirzah Garwood, herself an artist, in her autobiography, Long Live Great Bardfield. Marooned in a dank Essex farmhouse with her three young children in the hell of war, she typed out her book after putting them to bed, and bequeathed it to posterity “should it have survived”:

“… All I ask of you is that you love the country as I do, and when you come into a room, discreetly observe its pictures and its furnishings, and sympathise with painters and craftsmen.”

(Claire Armitstead, “‘He died in his 30s living the life he had dreamed of’: artist Eric Ravilious,” theguardian.com, 6-24-22)

Ravilious’s work and Garwood’s words evoke for me the art of two blogs that I admire:

Sue Grey-Smith (https://suegreysmithartist.wordpress.com) and Outside Authority (https://outsideauthor.wordpress.com)

(c) 2022 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Quotations and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ‘It’s This Old, Fatal Love for the Landscape’

  1. Thank you for the mention! I don’t recognise Eric’s name, but that first picture is ringing a bell. Actually, you’ve inspired me to do something from it. OA

    Liked by 3 people

    • JMN says:

      Ravilious was new to me. If the exposure inspires you I’m glad. I’d like to see more instances of his work. The article mentioned a “well known” painting of his featuring a red trolley or taxi (?) but didn’t show it. Thanks for looking, OA.

      Liked by 1 person

      • UPDATE!! You mentioning a red trolley (bus?) rang a deafening bell. A quick google and I realise I actually have a set of notelets with Ravilious’ pictures on! They are cityscapes, largely monochrome. Can’t quite locate them at the moment. I bought them for myself many years ago and only special people get sent one! With Sue saying she has read the book, I feel we are sparking off each other!

        Liked by 2 people

      • JMN says:

        Amazing. This is what blogging is for. Felicitous connections.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you! You are so very kind Jim!
    I have read, and loved, Robert MacFarlane, and you have nudged me into re-reading him now. I love these pieces by Eric Ravilious – very cool English colours with impeccable confident shapes. Thank you again for educating me!

    Liked by 3 people

    • JMN says:

      The thanks goes to you! What a nice coincidence that you’ve read MacFarlane. I would like to do so. Ravilious was new to me, and I found the article about him especially informative. I echoed only a small piece of it, and it’s worth reading. I agree about his extremely restrained colors — that was striking. HIs touches are meticulous. He managed to differentiate the subtle contours of the terrain with almost no perceptible gradation. His wire fence reminded me of your blurred landscape with the wire from a while back. I keep the phrase “blurred wire” in my head, it seems a title asking for a poem!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah yes – ‘blurred wire’ sounds perfect for a poem (by you!)

    Liked by 2 people

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