England By Train With Eric Ravilious

The aesthetic of Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) blends traditional landscape painting, folk art, and modernism. He painted England in watercolors, with compositions often juxtaposing the contemporary and the ancient. The effect was always surprisingly harmonious. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the related works, Westbury Horse (1939) and Train Landscape (1940), which feature railways passing a Medieval, possibly prehistoric monument.

In his book, Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities, Alan Powers describes these paintings: “One is seen from an adjacent slope at the same level, with a view over the Wiltshire plain, across which runs the railway with a train passing in the middle distance. The second…reverses the relationship, by viewing the hills and horse from the windows of a third class railway compartment.”

Westbury Horse, by Eric Ravilious, 1939
Train Landscape, by Eric Ravilious, 1940

According to Powers, “Train Landscape originally showed the Wilmington Giant from a similar viewpoint (both figures overlook railway lines near the foot of their hills), but was altered by Ravilious who cut away the window area and almost invisibly inserted three new panels.”

Around the same time, Ravilious painted a separate work featuring the Wilmington Giant. Here again we see (what might be) the view from a railway compartment, dynamic and static: the monument caught by the eye just before it passes.

The Wilmington Giant, by Eric Ravilious, 1939

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