Eric Ravilious is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, best known for his Modernist watercolours of English landscapes together with his atmospheric prints and book illustrations.

Beachy Head is one of his best-known works. Ravilious was born in London but moved to Eastbourne with his parents as a young boy. He trained at Eastbourne School of Art and at the Royal College of Art in London. Beachy Head shows the Sussex coastline in the year the Second World War began, and just before it became transformed by barbed wire and other defences. The artist Michael Rothenstein wrote an account of Ravilious’ working methods for the picture, describing him spending two evenings making colour notes for the scene and returning in the daytime to complete the drawing of the lighthouse and cliffs. The actual painting, with its distinctive dry-brush hatching, was completed from memory. Beachy Head was included in Ravilious’ final solo exhibition in 1939 (he was lost in action in 1942) and was noted by critics as an outstanding work. In his biography, Eric Ravilious: Artist & Designer, the writer Alan Powers describes the painting as one of Ravilious’ ‘most perfect compositions, uncluttered by objects or detail’. Towner Art Gallery, based in the artist’s childhood hometown of Eastbourne, close to Beachy Head, holds one of the largest public collections of Ravilious’ work. The first acquisitions were made in 1936 and the gallery has recently opened a dedicated Ravilious Room with a changing display of his work.


Acquired from artist by Peggy Angus, 1939; gifted to Janet Kennedy, 1984.

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