Archive for category Author: Brian Webb

Eric Ravilious Scrapbooks || Peyton Skipwith & Brian Webb

This varied and delightful book accompanies the same authors’ look at the sketchbooks of Edward Bawden that appeared two years ago. Ravilious and Bawden are, of course, very much in vogue and the counterpoints to their work make for enjoyable and fascinating study.

As with the Bawden volume, this includes preparatory drawings as well as materials the artist collected as what would now be called a “mood board”. As well as having some interest in their own right as historical records, these show the way Ravilious’ mind worked and how his ideas developed into finished pieces. As a designer as well as an artist, it is possible to see how he was using contemporary references to create images that chimed exactly with his own times.

As well as sketches and design clippings there are also newspaper stories, such as the first flight over Everest, the development of the parachute or a photograph (supplied by Bawden) of the English touring cricket team of 1859. Almost anything seems to have been grist to Ravilious’ mill, but the printed borders and figurative photographs he used as motifs and for reference are particularly interesting.

There is no shortage of books on Eric Ravilious and this is perhaps one for the more dedicated follower. However, it provides many delights in its own right as well as insights into the creative mind generally, along with that of its nominated subject.

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Edward Bawden Scrapbooks || Peyton Skipwith & Brian Webb

Edward Bawden was one of the Twentieth Century’s most popular artists and illustrators. Even if you don’t think you know the name, the style is instantly recognisable and characterises much of the look of the middle of the period. Bawden was prolific, producing murals for the Festival of Britain, countless book jackets, station panels for the London Underground and even garden furniture. A fellow student of and later collaborator with Eric Ravilious, the pair were described by Paul Nash as “an extraordinary outbreak of talent”.

All artists need a point of reference and Edward Bawden’s were his numerous scrapbooks. These are much more than casual collections of a dilettante magpie, but rather carefully curated collections that the artist kept up for a period of more than 55 years. It is a mark of how much he valued them that virtually all of them survive today.

The Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden in Suffolk is the repository of what we might call the Bawden archive. That’s to say: it has a remarkable collection of his work and also, importantly for the present consideration, the scrapbooks. If you ever needed an excuse for a holiday in East Anglia, this would be it.

You might be forgiven for thinking that an artist’s scrapbooks are interesting, but not that interesting, that they’re a handy footnote for the serious student, but not much else. However, when there is the volume we have here, and it’s as thoughtfully compiled, the result is a history of the art and design of the period, as well as an insight into a thoroughly creative mind. Pay that visit and you can see how the one plays off against the other.

There is no doubt that the greatest value in this volume is when seen alongside the works that Bawden produced under these influences. However, even stood alone, it’s a fascinating piece of what is relatively recent history.

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