Lying in the bath this morning and thinking about seeing Drawn to War last night, I thought a couple of things were obvious.
The first, as came out of the discussion afterwards, is that Ravilious’s reputation was originally as a decorative artist – the creator of mugs for Wedgwood – and that his watercolours are inevitably less seen, because of the fugitive nature of the medium.
The second is whether or not there is an influence of surrealism. What everyone, including Alan Bennett, suggests in the film is that the images are not quite as innocent as they seem. There is always a sense of hidden depths, of impending war, barbed wire beside the downland, which is why the images have a power beyond the merely decorative. Ravilious seems not to have been particularly part of the London art world, preferring to live in Essex, but he must have been aware of surrealism which was such a prominent part of the art world in the late 1930s.