Needing to produce work for an Autumn show in New Bond Street in 1939 Eric Ravilious paid a visit to Wales early in 1938. Ravilious spent several weeks at the Welsh hamlet of Capel-y-Ffin.
In the 1920’s Capel-y-Ffin had been home to two of Britain’s most significant twentieth century artists – Eric Gill and David Jones.
Tirzah commented:’ We arrived in Wales by the late afternoon, the weather was damp, and the mountains strewn with rocks and patches of born dead bracken, the sheep on their sides jutted out, precariously attached to their surface by the force of gravity.’
Tirzah stayed a couple of days before heading back to Castle Hedingham.
In early February Ravilious wrote: ‘It is rather boisterous weather but improving a little. The skies are superb but the hills so massive it is difficult to leave room for them on the paper. Mrs Saunders and all her family are as nice as possible, and they are all so good-looking and so large on the female side – she cooks in the most generous way and I don’t know how to eat these great platefuls of pig’s fry. A pig has been hanging up in the kitchen and today was scientifically cut up like a diagram in a cookery book, and I watched it simply fascinated. You should have seen them burning off the bristles with a flaming bracken, with the pig on a stretcher. It was like a funeral pyre and the smell was amazing.’
Wet Afternoon. 1938. How it looks today, the chapel of St Mary still prominent.
He was visited by another artist, John Piper, who with his wife Myfanwy took Eric to the pub for a meal before returning to the farm and looking at Piper’s collages of Welsh Chapels.
As the weather improved in early March, Ravilious said: ‘I work simply all day, I’m trying to make up for lost time and bad drawings, with much better results. A painting of a water wheel, homemade by the son of the farmer, is now almost finished and looks rather well, and a bit Chinese; also, there are four geese in the picture, and the time is eight in the morning.’
Waterwheel, 1938. Duke of Hereford’s Knob 1938. Corn Stooks and Farmsteads – Hill Farm, Capel-y- Ffin, Wales 1938.
Six weeks passed by and Tirzah returned to pick up Eric. As a thank you to the Saunders family Eric and Tirzah treated them to a trip to the cinema in Abergavenny. They did the journey back to Essex in one day.
The show at Tooth’s Gallery, New Bond Street went on from 11th May to 3rd June 1939 and was a great success. ‘Cliff’s in March’, sold at the show is one of the missing ER paintings possibly in private collections in the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
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Graham Bennison, March 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist