Art & Design Magazine

Eric Ravilious: High Street Variants

By Adventuresintheprinttrade
When I wrote my post A walk along High Street, I was aware that three of Eric Ravilious's evocative lithographs of shop fronts for High Street had first been published in the journal Signature: A Quadrimestrial of Typography and Graphic Arts, with an appreciation by John Piper. This short article, entitled "Lithographs by Eric Ravilious of Shop Fronts", was published in March 1937, while the book did not appear until the following year. What I had not realised was that the three plates in Signature varied significantly from those in the book. When I first noticed this, I thought it was merely a matter of variant colourways, but the more I look at these beautiful prints the more variations I see. I won't spoil the fun of this spot-the-difference game by pointing out every detail, but will simply put the two versions next to each other. All were printed by the Curwen Press, where the lithographs were executed directly onto the lithographic stones.
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Restaurant and Grill RoomLithograph, 1937Signature version
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Restaurant and Grill RoomLithograph, 1938High Street version
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Letter MakersLithograph, 1937Signature version
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Letter MakersLithograph, 1938High Street version
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Naturalist: Furrier: PlumassierLithograph, 1937Signature version
Eric Ravilious: High Street variantsEric Ravilious, Naturalist: Furrier: PlumassierLithograph, 1938High Street version
Here is the text of John Piper's short essay, as published in Signature:
"There is an accent on line in all the work of Eric Ravilious. His control over a pencil, a pen or an engraving tool - the sense that it is never leading him, but that he is always taking it exactly where he wants it - made it necessary that sooner or later he should try lithography as a medium. Ravilious is a particularly English artist. That may seem a stale thing to say, but he is English in this most important way; in this matter of control over line - line that can express fluently movement or stillness, and grace as well as volume. The delight of his new lithographs of shop fronts is of a kind that is rare enough. It is the delight one gets from work which one feels has been specially suited to an artist's taste and feeling; and there is probably no one else who could have made these records at once so faithfully and so imaginatively. There is about them the suggestion that you are looking in at a series of gay, old-fashioned parties from a matter-of-fact street in the present. They are records of a passing beauty, but they are full of present-day experience. And they are faithful enough to look like tuck-shops full of sherbet, liquorice and lollipops - which after all is one of the chief appeals of the attractive shop. The three examples reproduced here are from a series of twenty-four."

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