Lot 7
  • 7

Eric Ravilious

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • Eric Ravilious
  • Newhaven Harbour 
  • signed; titled on the reverse
  • watercolour, pencil and crayon on paper
  • 45.5 by 58cm.; 18 by 22¾in.
  • Executed circa 1935.


Zwemmer Gallery, London, where acquired by Mrs. Beryl Sinclair, and thence by family descent to the previous owner
Their sale, Sotheby's London, 2nd November 1983, lot 103where acquired by the present owner


London, Zwemmer Gallery, Eric Ravilious, 5th - 29th February 1936, cat. no.9;
New York, World's Fair, British Council Exhibition, 1939, cat. no.107;
Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art, Contemporary British Art, 1942, cat. no.74;
Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery, Eric Ravilious: Memorial Exhibition, 1948, cat. no.15;
Sheffield, Graves Gallery, Eric Ravilious, 1903 - 1942An Exhibition of Watercolours, Wood Engravings, Illustrations, Designs, February - March 1958, cat. no.95;
Colchester, The Minories, Eric Ravilious, 29th January - 19th February 1972, cat. no.31, with tour to Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Morley Gallery, London and Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (as Lighthouse at Newhaven).


Freda Constable, The England of Eric Ravilious, Scholar Press, London, 1982, illustrated pl.11;
Alan Powers, Artist & Designer, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2013, p.94, illustrated pl.112, p.97.


There are artist's pinholes in all four corners and a tiny nick in the upper right corner, not wholly visible in the present mount. The left and lower edges are deckled and there is some very light time staining to the extreme edges, not visible in the present mount. There is one very tiny instance of foxing next to the upper mirror, visible upon extremely close inspection. Subject to the above the work appears to be in overall excellent condition with strong passages of medium and vibrant colours throughout. The work is presented in a simple wooden frame and held behind glass. Please telephone the department on +(44) 0207 293 6424 if you have any further questions regarding the present lot.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

'They evolved in the decade before the outbreak of war in 1939, a new method of painting in water-colours of great delicacy and definition, using a technique of under-painting and elaborate superimposed washes and stipples…' (Lawrence Binyon, English Water-Colours, A. & C. Black, London, 1944, 2nd Edition, pp.169-170). So wrote Lawrence Binyon, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, of the generation of inter-war artists including Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, and John Piper. Introduced to the cool landscapes of 18th Century watercolourists like John Robert Cozens, Francis Towne and John Sell Cotman largely through Binyon’s efforts, Ravilious and his contemporaries were inspired to transform watercolour into a distinctly modern medium.

Ravilious grew up in Sussex, in Eastbourne, where his parents had an antiques shop, studying first at the Eastbourne School of Art (1919-22) and then the Royal College of Art (1922-25), where he met his life-long friend Edward Bawden. Though Ravilious and Bawden lived and worked in Great Barfield, Essex, it is with Sussex that Ravilious’s work is indelibly linked. His childhood association with Sussex was reignited by an invitation in 1934 from the artist and polymath Peggy Angus to stay in her shepherd’s hut, Furlongs, on the South Downs. In August of the following year, Bawden suggested a painting trip to Harwich but, uninspired by their initial choice, they settled upon a stay at the Hope Inn at Newhaven, a harbour town within walking distance of Furlongs. Newhaven was distinguished by a distinctive breakwater and seawall with lighthouses perched at each end. Ravilious’s predilection for the nautical was shared by many of his contemporaries, including Paul Nash, Tristram Hillier, Ben Nicholson and Edward Wadsworth, as a theme replete with unusual objects, organic and man-made, found in unexpected juxtapositions.  

A monumental storm engulfed Newhaven upon Ravilious’s arrival and he ventured out to the lighthouse at the end of the jetty: 'The spray from the breakers crashing on the weather-side of the breakwater was a quite extraordinary sight – I got very wet and think now it was almost a dangerous walk out there, but worth it. The scene was like one of those extravagant and formless pictures of Turner’s' (Eric Ravilious, quoted in Helen Binyon, Eric Ravilious Memoir of an Artist, The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1994, p.80). At least three views of the harbour specifically were included in Ravilious’s second solo exhibition with the Zwemmer Gallery in 1936, including the present work Newhaven Harbour (cat. no.9), Channel Steamer Leaving Harbour (cat. no.32), and Lighthouses at Newhaven (cat. no.18), later used by Ravilious as his contribution to the Lithographs for Schools project. All three were exhibited at the World Fair in New York in 1939, and Newhaven Harbour still bears the label from this trip across the Atlantic on the brink of the Second World War.

Newhaven Harbour is designed with deliberation: the lighthouse, one of Ravilious’s preferred motifs, is seen through a lattice of ropes, draped across the composition. Echoed verticals of the lighthouse, a further lighthouse, signalling mast, and picket fence punctuate the horizon of the seascape, and are intersected by the diagonals of ropes. A complex internal structure of interlocking shapes is precisely fashioned: such consideration underscoring the latent strangeness present in Ravilious’s most memorable imagery. Unusually for Ravilious, a solitary figure is included, surveying the harbour from the lighthouse’s lower viewing platform, binoculars in hand. His face is featureless, as was Ravilious’s custom for the rare occasions he populated his scenes. Despite, or perhaps enhanced, by the presence of a lone figure, the work retains Ravilious’s customary quietness and stillness – cloudless blue skies replace the stormy introduction to Newhaven. Jan Gordon, critic for The Observer, wrote of Ravilious’s 1936 exhibition that Ravilious combined 'decorative wit…with a curious aloofness' (Jan Gordon, quoted in Alan Powers, Eric Ravilious Artist & Designer, Lund Humphries, Farnham, 2013, p.80). In Newhaven Harbour it is the ‘decorative wit’ that brings about the ‘curious aloofness’, producing a picture of crisp architectonic structure and alluring reverie.