'It’s just a moment'

Robert Kime chooses New Year Snow, 1938, by Eric Ravilious (1903–42), 23in by 181⁄2in, Private Collection

Robert Kime says: ‘If you walk landscapes, you’ll have a moment when a landscape like this hits you. I don’t know why, it’s just a moment: trees in a straight line; trees tumbling down a hill. It reminds me of lots of bits of landscape I know well, but haven’t necessarily been to.

‘Ravilious was a perfect naturalist. He died so young, but I don’t know what else he could have said about this country—he’d summed it up for me. He always got the point of what the British landscape was like.’

Robert Kime is an antiques dealer and interior designer

John McEwen comments on New Year Snow: ‘Eric Ravilious’s father was an antiques dealer. In Eric’s childhood, the family moved from Acton to Eastbourne, where a scholarship to the art school first raised his artistic interest. Another scholarship took him to London’s Royal College of Art, where his tutor, Paul Nash, was a decisive influence. Nash described the Ravilious intake as ‘an outbreak of talent’.

Percy Douglas Bliss, one of its leading lights, recalled Ravilious and Edward Bawden as ‘far more advanced’ artistically than the other students. In 1925, Ravilious won a travelling scholarship to Italy and began to teach part-time at Eastbourne School of Art. He completed his first mural commission with Bawden and, like him, his career followed parallel paths in industrial and commercial design, printmaking and murals as well as watercolours of interiors, townscapes and landscapes. People were rarely included and he disliked oil paint.

‘He used watercolour in a sparse way learned from Nash, the crisp clarity of the paper spared to provide an overall glimmer. It fitted with his favourite landscape, the Sussex chalk downs, and here with snow in Wales. The picture was done on a painting trip to Capel-y-ffin, just over the border from Herefordshire in the Brecon Beacons, a place that had recently been put on the artistic map by Eric Gill and David Jones.

‘Ravilious took pleasure in man-made objects and machinery, a human indication often featured in his pictures at odds with the convention of the ‘unspoilt’ view. He never learned to drive and always drew outdoors, barely visible colour notes suggesting paint was applied indoors later—a procedure that didn’t dim the freshness of first experience.’

** Read the entire My Favourite Painting series