Rare Ravilious prints go under the hammer at auction in Essex

A COLLECTION of five rare lithograph prints of submarines by official war artist Eric Ravilious, found pushed down the side of a bed in north London, is being sold at an auction in Essex.

The prints are part of a set of 10, in what is believed to be a limited edition of only 50, being sold by Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers at its next Decorative Art & Design Sale in Stansted Mountfitchet, on Tuesday September 4. They each have guide prices of between �2,000 and �3,000.

Sworders’ managing director Guy Schooling said: “The owners weren’t aware of the importance of these items, so this is an exceptional discovery. In his short life, Eric Ravilious had an innovative style, his star is increasingly in the ascendant, and important work like this is extremely rare.

“As principle sponsor of the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden - which holds perhaps the most important collection of his work - and as an auction room close to Great Bardfield where he once lived, we are delighted to be bringing them to market.”

Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) was appointed an official war artist at the end of 1939. He began to make drawings of submarines and their interiors at HMS Dolphin, the submarine base in Gosport, Hampshire, in early 1940.

Working from these studies and official photographs he set about developing designs for a series of lithographs which the War Artist’s Committee proposed to publish as a children’s colouring book. When fears over the cost of publication led to the Committee abandoning the project, Ravilious decided to publish them himself.

Ravilious and his wife Tirzah Garwood moved to Essex in 1932 where they initially lodged with fellow artist Edward Bawden in Great Bardfield. Two years later they bought Bank House in Castle Hedingham – the building now has a blue plaque commemorating this fact.

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He was killed in 1942 at the age of 39, while accompanying a Royal Air Force air sea rescue mission off Iceland that failed to return to its base.

An accomplished artist herself, Tirzah Garwood’s work is currently being exhibited at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden.

Mr Schooling added: “Sworders were responsible for the sale of the second most expensive work by Eric Ravilious ten years ago, when we auctioned one of his paintings for �70,000.

“The Fry Art Gallery recently acquired a complete set of these lithographs. I would not be at all surprised if our prints sell for up to �5,000 each.”