Eric Ravilious; the Downland Man

For the very first time Wiltshire Museum will be borrowing from major National Museums to bring an international standard art exhibition to the County. They’ve confirmed important loans from the Tate and V&A, as well as private lenders. They are also liaising with the Imperial War Museum, British Museum, National Museum of Wales and the prestigious Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, as well as private lenders, to secure a significant range of evocative watercolours for the display.

This ground-breaking exhibition celebrates watercolour artist Eric Ravilious, and his fascination with the sweeping downland landscapes of Wiltshire and Sussex. His watercolours have such a spirit of place you can almost feel the wind on your cheeks and hear the birds above. Wiltshire Museum say, “it will appeal to art lovers across the country and to local people who love the iconic local landscapes.”

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The exhibition is masterminded by guest curator, James Russell. James created the enormously successful Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2015. He will also write an illustrated catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

The importance of the downlands to Ravilious is well documented, but this exhibition will be the first to be dedicated solely to this subject. It will explore this area of his work and relate it to the national fascination with downland landscapes, mythology and archaeology, which gripped Britain between the wars. The exhibition will include darkly menacing war-time views of the coastline, including the famous ‘White Cliffs’ of Dover.

Items from the museum’s designated collections will be included in the exhibition. A highlight will be a sketch book Ravilious created in 1939 for the ‘Puffin’ series of children’s books. Although never published, it contains delicate pencil drawings of chalk hill figures, ancient monuments and prehistoric earthworks in Wiltshire. The idea behind the series of books was to promote patriotism in the youth of England as the Second World War loomed.

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Though Wiltshire Museum need your help to bring this important exhibition to life. You can support the appeal by clicking here. donations will provide invaluable match-funding for grant applications to make the exhibition possible. They have already had donations from private individuals and are seeking commercial sponsorship.

We will also be organising an events programme linked to the exhibition. If you are interested in bringing a group to see the exhibition, having a guided tour or a lecture to your group, then please get in touch with the museum.


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