Heavenly Watercolours By Ravilious At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 34 months ago
Heavenly Watercolours By Ravilious At Dulwich Picture Gallery ★★★☆☆ 3
The fireworks on 5 November make the revellers all appear ghostly.
The fireworks on 5 November make the revellers all appear ghostly.
Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946
Seascapes were a common subject matter for Ravilious. Copyright Tate.
Presented by Sir Geoffrey and the Hon. Lady Fry in memory of the artist 1943
The light is so strong as it cascades into this greenhouse it almost feels heavenly. Copyright Tate.
War scenes never quite feel like they carry enough weight.
War scenes never quite feel like they carry enough weight.
The famous white Westbury horse.
The famous white Westbury horse.
The winter sun casts an ethereal glow over this vicarage.
The winter sun casts an ethereal glow over this vicarage.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Watercolour is often seen as the poorer cousin of oil painting because, as a medium, it often lacks the ability to convey any emotional weight. At the start of this exhibition we thought the paintings of Eric Ravilious would also be found wanting. The first few works of abandoned vehicles are skilfully executed, but lack the punch you'd get from the same subject in an oil painting or a photograph. Even his war paintings of dogfights often feel dream-like and lacking in substance.

But as the show goes on Ravilious starts to experiment more and truly comes into his own when he realises how watercolours can be used to portray blinding light. A greenhouse is filled with such a bright light that the scene almost feels heavenly and the plants are washed away. Similarly, a painting of a vicarage in the winter sun seems to extract all the light that was available that day and places it within this work.

It's the last room of this exhibition which truly shows off Ravilious's talents with a painting of rooftops on bonfire night: the exploding fireworks cast the entire scene in an angelic light causing all the figures to appear ghostly. His night scenes also impress with the sky appearing lighter than the darkened sea, both paling in comparison to the firing guns of HMS Ark Royal.

Ravilious maybe an inconsistent painter but he produced some breathtaking watercolours and his remarkable portrayal of light creates ethereal works that capture the imagination.

Ravilious is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, SE21 7AD until 31 August. Tickets are £12.50 for adults and include admission to the permanent collection. While at the Dulwich Picture Gallery make sure to try and spot the replica painting hidden in plain sight.

Last Updated 03 April 2015