The life of famous artist Eric Ravilious and his links to Essex
World renowned artist Eric Ravilious lived for long periods of his life in Great Bardfield and Castle Hedingham.
Ravilious was largely forgotten by the art establishment after his tragic death in 1942 until his children discovered a hoard of paintings under his bed in the 1970s.
Now recognized as a master, Ravilious’ reputation – and his connection to Brick House, Great Bardfield, and his other home in St James Street, Castle Hedingham – is set to soar further with the release of a new film Ravilious: Drawn At war.
The documentary, which received rave reviews, doesn’t shy away from revealing how Ravilious was a womanizer with the dashing beauty of Clark Gable who spent his life cheating on his beloved wife.
When she gave birth to their first child, Ravilious was with her partner, artist Helen Binyon.
Director Margy Eric Ravilious
Ravilious also had a longtime affair with another painter, the beautiful Diana Low.
Son of a second-hand dealer, Ravilious was a charming man, with an immense joie de vivre and an often contagious love.
His wife Tirzah Garwood – herself a respected artist and mother of his three children – described him as “a cad and a butterfly”.
But when Ravilious, who had been made an official war artist, died in September 1942 after a plane on a search and rescue mission off the coast of Iceland crashed into the sea, Tirzah was still his 12-year-old wife. .
She had – according to Andy Friend, author of the book Ravilious and Co – learned “to accept her transgressions with clear-headed tolerance”.
Already revered as one of Britain’s greatest landscape painters, Ravilious’ reputation and fame are set to skyrocket with the release of the documentary Ravilious: Drawn To War.
His life was one that would surely make a feature film and his death mirrors that of bandleader Glenn Miller – played by James Stewart in the 1953 Glenn Miller story – who disappeared in action in 1944 at the age of 40. years (one year older than Ravilious when he died) when his plane disappeared over the English Channel.
Certainly, many fans of the much-loved artist and his innocent, pastoral depictions of a beautiful Britain of a bygone era will likely be taken aback by the idea of Ravilious the Rake.
“You don’t want to ruin someone’s reputation and there are a lot of books about Ravilious and some of them don’t mention his adventures,” said Bafta-winning film director Margy Kinmouth. “But I thought it would be silly to airbrush them.
“He was absolutely gorgeous. The family gave me permission to use all the records, so I had full leeway.
“I found all these never-before-seen photographs and in one of them he looks exactly like Clark Gable.
“He was called ‘The Boy’ because he had this childlike beauty, plus he died before he was 40 so he never really grew up.
“There is something very weird about looking at people’s private letters and Ravilious wrote more to his girlfriends than to his wife.
“There were some that I couldn’t include in the film because I was starting to side with his wife and I was starting to feel sorry for her.
“In her autobiography, she is stoic, tough and honest. I had these two characters who were in combat, but locked in this marriage and who loved each other, which was great for my film.
“Her daughter [Anne Ullmann] was a baby when he died. I took inspiration from her because she received her father’s love letters and it took her eight years to work up the courage to read them.
Pointing out that Ravilious’ style changed significantly depending on who was the leading woman in his life at the time – “his brushstrokes were very fluid when he was with Diana Low” – Kinmouth insisted that the subject of his film deserved much more success than he already had.
She’s not alone: Grayson Perry, Alan Bennett and Ai Weiwei praise Ravilious in Drawn To War.
“I tried to make the movie for ages,” Kinmouth added. “When you explain what his work is like, people quickly realize they know him, maybe through rags.
“He’s not up there with Hockney or Turner or the big guys. It motivated me. I knew his life story was amazing and that made me determined to get the movie done.