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Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War (2022)


Our sell-out audience went home delighted and the sense of appreciation was reflected in our discussion group. One of our members, who had served with the army, declared that Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War was the best film he’d seen at our community cinema. Our evening also welcomed enthusiastic local war artist Graeme Lothian, who gave us a real insight into his art and role, particularly his five tours to Afghanistan. We were fascinated to hear that the function of a war artist was not to create propaganda. The artist recorded the reality of war, not just on the battlefield, but also, as in Graeme’s case, within the military hospitals.


It was refreshing for us to see a documentary. Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War has been made eighty years after his death. Director Margy Kinmouth had created a film that was riveting, as well as extremely touching. We liked the way the images were interwoven with stories and reflective interviews, including insights from Grayson Perry and Alan Bennett. The film was like an old-fashioned documentary - that was a compliment. We approved of no uncomfortable re-enactments or wobbly handheld cameras.


The director made a pleasing decision not to highlight Ravilious’ affairs during his marriage. They were mentioned, but not a focus of the film. The subtle background music highlighted the artist’s ultimately tragic life journey. By the end, we knew a lot about him. The film explored his boyish enthusiasm, a certain naivety which was reflected in his charming art and the way in which his quest for excitement and beauty led him to an early death in a plane over Iceland.


Although some of us had not heard Ravilious’ name before, his landscapes felt very familiar. It reflected Britishness and our own experience of places we knew. We were in awe of his remarkably skilled woodcuts. We felt sorry for his wife, artist Tirzah Garwood, at home with three young children and ill, while her husband was having such adventures. Perhaps it is now time for a documentary about her life and work.


There was a plea for free accessibility to art images for educational purposes.


Fashion notes: Thanks to Hospice in the Weald for the combat trousers (£3) and the camouflage shirt originally from Zara (£3) which gave me a hint of the military theme.


Anne Goldstein

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