He was one of the most prolific and – at the time at least – beloved English artists of the mid-20th century. Working in watercolour, pen and ink and woodcut engraving, Eric Ravilious’s work combined an arcane Englishness steeped in nature, rolling landscapes and pagan embellishments with a sensibility that was bold in its modernity and economy. His admirers, interviewed in this fascinating and characterful documentary by Margy Kinmonth, include Grayson Perry and Ai Weiwei. But Ravilious lapsed into almost total obscurity until his children rediscovered his drawings some years after his death. Even now, he is not widely known. The film makes a case that Ravilious should be regarded, alongside the likes of Turner and Constable, as one of Britain’s great landscape artists.
So why did Ravilious slip through the net? He was, in the words of his wife, Tirzah Garwood, “not quite a gentleman”, so class prejudices may have played a role. But it’s possible that his untimely death at the age of 39 – he perished in a plane crash in 1942 while serving as a war artist – also contributed to his relative obscurity. Rediscovery is long overdue.