Eric Ravilious

The Vale of the White Horse

c.1939

Artist
Eric Ravilious 1903–1942
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 451 x 324 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1940
Reference
N05164

On loan to: The Salisbury Museum (Salisbury, UK)

Exhibition: Art and Archaeology: Artistic responses to the prehistoric landscape, c.1780 -2015

Display caption

Ravilious saw himself as part of a long tradition of English landscape painters, and his use of flat watercolour recalls the work of John Sell Cotman in the early nineteenth century. However, his pictures often subvert tradition as much as echo it. His depiction of the countryside in the rain is familiar, but the low viewpoint makes the image disconcerting. This emphasises the mass of the hill and provides an unusual view of the White Horse cut into the chalk at Uffington in Berkshire, one of Britain’s most ancient sites. It was, perhaps, the surprisingly abstract depiction of the White Horse that attracted modern artists.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N05164 THE VALE OF THE WHITE HORSE c. 1939

Inscr. ‘Eric Ravilious’ t.r.
Watercolour, 17 3/4×21 3/4 (45×55·3).
Purchased from the artist through the Leicester Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1940.
Exh: Eastbourne and Brighton, 1948 (35); Arts Council, 1948–9 (49); Sheffield, 1958 (16).

This appears to be the White Horse on White Horse Hill, Uffington, Berkshire. The current view is that it was probably made as a tribal emblem towards the end of the first century B.C. or the earliest part of the first century A.D. The design resembles the animal figures of Iron Age times and similar horses are to be found on coins of British tribes of that date, including the Atrebates of Berkshire.

There is a watercolour by the artist of the chalk horse and rider at Weymouth in the Massey Collection, National Gallery of Canada.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

Features

Tate Etc

Lure of the wild

The artist Francis Towne’s near abstract eighteenth-century watercolours of Swiss glaciers were to inspire Eric Ravilious more than a century ...

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