There is a fine chapter in Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways where he walks the landscape of Eric Ravilious and now I know that strangers called him Eric, friends called him Ravilious. Robert elaborates on the way that landscape primed Ravilious's imagination (we're friends now) .
Ravilious himself wrote how the South Downs shaped..
'..my whole outlook and way of painting...because the colour of the landscape was so lovely and the design so beautifully obvious...'
and that chimes so well with our ploughed field in front of the house recently.
Who knew there were quite so many shades of brown, yet when we look out at dawn (that's not me very often I must admit) or dusk, or in sun, or after a downpour, we see an entire palette of colours. Still only ploughed and yet to be sown, so the furrows do that very Ravilious thing of drawing the gaze down the field and on into Cornwall beyond, much as his paintings do.
Robert Macfarlane describes it thus ...
'walkerless paths that entice the eye and the imagination out of sight, promising events and adventures over the horizon.'
So it was only a matter of time before I caved in and bought one of James Russell's very covetable series of books on the paintings of our man, but I also wanted perversely to test out whether a book that looks nice on the coffee table could hold a candle to that transitory moment at the recent Ravilious exhibition in Bristol.
The pictures I saw there now etched in my imagination and I find myself overlaying them on the views around me, so would a book enhance or detract from that...
Was my imagination sufficient unto the day and might the book sit there looking pretty but be ignored...
I am a fiend for buying a book or a catalogue at an exhibition, I just can't stop myself, but I'm beginning to think this might be a mistake.
Do I ever really look at them again... shouldn't I let my imagination and memory do the work.
Do you all do this too??
So this time I have waited a while and still bought the book. I was starting to stroke it when I saw it anywhere (sorry those are my fingerprints on your copy) so there's no answer beyond imposing a two month buying embargo and then seeing if I still feel the need
The cover of A Country Life gives a good indication...
The Ironbridge at Ewenbridge building on my slowly-developing Ravilious eye, beckoning, drawing the gaze across and beyond and into the book (clever book designers) and a series of paintings to follow that of course I have loved. James Russell's insightful and informative analysis has guided me on towards interpretations of my own, and every few days (because I do pick the book up this often, it sits by my desk for those work moments when I need to 'go for a walk' but can't) a new favourite emerges.
This weeks it is Two Women in a Garden...
Ravilious's landscapes so often vast and almost beyond the horizon, yet the intimate is well within his sphere too and I love the way his planes and perspective seem, to my eye at least, just everso slightly imperfect. Tirzah Ravilious prepares vegetables while Charlotte Bawden reads, because by now the two couples had moved into Brick House in Great Bardfield in Essex, the house initially rented but eventually bought as a wedding present for the Bawdens by Edward's father. This has to be a better deal than a set of saucepans.
I love the way the two women co-exist in their same but seperate worlds...Tirzah Ravilious, lost in thought and staring into the distance. And then that random umbrella lying on the ground....it all feels like a picture and a moment to lose myself in.