The story of the stricken war artist Eric Ravelius told in a new film | coloring

THis letter was dated August 30, 1942 and published from Iceland. “A wonderful lunch of caviar, paté and cheese,” Eric Ravelius, one of the official war artists, wrote to his wife, Terza (“tosh”). He then described the moon-like craters on the island before he finished: “Want a pair of gloves, in seal skin with fur on the back? Draw your hand on the writing paper so I can get the size up. Bye baby. Hope you feel better again.”

The letter was read by his surviving child, Anne Ullman, in English Eric Ravelius: Attracted to War, which continues to general release—a rarity for an art film—on July 1. His “Farewell, my love” was tragically appropriate, three days later, Ravelius’ plane crashes over the sea. The letter reached his wife after his death.

She was a little girl when her father passed away and she is now 81 years old, this is Ullman’s first television or video interview. She reveals moving letters between her parents, and how in the 1980s she discovered an unknown treasure from her father’s works, including several pictures of submarines, in the bedroom of his close friend, artist Edward Bowden.

This discovery began a resurgence of interest in Ravilious, who was virtually forgotten after the war for half a century. as such Alan Bennett Notes in the film: “Now he is very likable. However, it is a shared secret. “

White horse sculpture in the slope of the hill in Wiltshire
The Westbury Horse The Ravilious artwork has an evocative English feel. Photo: Towner Eastbourne /

She was seeing a poster of Ravilious’s landscape training At the school that turned Bennett into a hipster. Decades later, lively English is remembered for other works of the 1930s such as tea in furlong And the Westbury horse.

Grayson Berrywho spent their childhood in the same part of Essex where the Ravelius family eventually settled and where their neighbor Bowden was, said, “He takes simple subjects and turns them into masterpieces.”

Film Award-winning director Margie Kinmonth, who has made previous TV documentaries on L.S. Lowry and Prince Charles paintingshe said, “Yes, some may struggle for the name Ravilious, but when they see his work, he is very well known.”

Initially known for his pastoral settings, Ravelius became one of the first artists of World War II in a scheme drawn up by Kenneth Clark, then director of the National Gallery. And from the war letters of Ravelius, this echoes, in large part because of his death – he was the first war artist to perish -. Some of the Tush also live. They were all left to their three children.

Ravilious wrote from near Norway in April 1940 of “the bitter fight” and “how the sun did not shine much in the day or night.” “How terrifying it is that she is witnessing a real war,” Tosh replied. She told him that HMS Glorious sank in June 1940 and 1,500 British sailors drowned. “I’d be so relieved you’re back,” she wrote, adding that their son John “was almost hit by a bomb in a field.”

By the summer of 1940, Ravelius was aboard a submarine who loved to draw and paint despite the cramped conditions. Based on the south coast, he sent several messages to Tosh amid the German bombing: “It’s pandemonium with all the bombardment, and yet I feel a commotion in me that it is really possible to chart war activities.”

Tosh gave birth to Anne in April 1941, but later that year wrote of a tumor in her left breast. Ullman said: “My father asked to be taken from Yorkshire, where he was then staying, to Essex. My mother needed a mastectomy and then an abortion because it was not safe to have another child.” She got pregnant while Ravelius was on vacation to see her newborn.

Despite her problems, Ravelius was sent to Iceland in mid-1942. The film tells of how Tosh felt she could not stop him, even though she knew her husband might never return. In her diary, she wrote, “I raised Anne to wave a final goodbye.” It proved to be a “final goodbye”, as Ravilious died on September 2. Ullman recalls in the movie I later told him, “The lady who lived down the corridor, about coming to my mother with a portion of his traces. This included red spotted handkerchiefs. My mother had tears in her eyes.”

Tosh then had to write 49 times over two years to the War Office for a widow’s pension before it was accepted that her husband was not only missing, but officially dead. It was even more terrible because she was left with three youngsters and her health deteriorated. She died in her forties of cancer in 1951.

“In a way, we got on with our lives,” Ullman said. But as she and her siblings got older, and after their stepfather passed away (Tosh remarried in 1946), they wanted to know more about their father. Ullman wrote in the 1980s to Bowden, who was still staying in the same house in Essex. “He sent a very nice message.” Amazingly, Bowden told her he kept a large cache of Ravilious’s work under his bed.

After the discovery, the children began to revive their father’s career. Exhibitions were held, culminating in a large display in Dulwich Photo Gallery 2015while the price of his work rose.

“Being a war artist was not an easy choice,” Bennett said. “Painting was Ravilious’s active service – and he sacrificed his life for it. Not quite the death of a martyr, but it preserves and raises it.”