Ravilious and the White Horses

In the Autumn of 1939 Eric Ravilious was working on a ‘lost’ Puffin Picture Book which reached dummy stages but was ultimately abandoned.

Ravilious undertook a whirlwind tour of the chalk figures of the Downs and subsequently painted the watercolours that were intended for a title in the Puffin Picture Book series. Unfortunately, Ravilious’ work as a war artist together with Tirzah giving birth to Anne delayed progress on the book which was postponed, tragically never to be finished when the plane he had taken a ride in vanished over Iceland in 1942.

In December 1939 Ravilious wrote to Diana Tuely (nee Low): ‘I have just returned from Dorset, having been promised a job drawing chalk figures- horses and giants- for a book.  So, I managed to hand my shifts….and with a burst of work drew four. The Weymouth George III, The Cerne giant. The horse at Westbury and the other white horse at Uffington.  Some time I hope to do the others and start work on the book, but it is a complicated life and so many interruptions.’

Left: The Vale of the White Horse, Uffington. 1939. Right. The Wilmington Giant. 1939.

Left: The Osmington White Horse, Weymouth 1939. Right: The Westbury White Horse 1939.

The dummy was sent to publisher Noel Carrington but when the work was postponed Carrington stated that he would return the dummy.  The dummy disappeared, believed lost until 2010 when Roland Collins, who had illustrated Carrington’s 1954 book ‘Colour and Patterns in the Home’, confessed to a friend that he himself might have the dummy. It transpired that Carrington had given the dummy to Collins in the 1950’s when clearing out his office.  The dummy was tucked away by Collins and completely forgotten.  So rediscovered we now have the scribbled layouts!

The rediscovered dummy pages for the book.

ER’s original watercolours of the chalk figures on the Downs are now considered  amongst his finest work.

The Cerne Abbas Giant 1939

One dusky Autumn day in the late 1980’s enjoying a family break at Cerne Abbas I went on a run. I returned to the village over the hill summit and with nobody else around ran straight down the middle of the Giant.

The dummy book has been re-vamped and is available from Design For Today ISBN 978191 206661 2

Graham Bennison https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Eric Ravilious and Friends…https://www.facebook.com/groups/488249232182567

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