‘An easy cycle ride from his boyhood home and clearly visible from the window of the Eastbourne – Lewes train, the Long Man of Wilmington intrigued Ravilious greatly. In a rare piece of published writing he mused on its origins, suggesting that it might be a representation of Virgo, and he always referred to the figure by its less gender specific name. He included it in the Morley College murals and in a wood engraving of the same period, but perhaps waited until he had the technical ability in watercolour to make the figure his own.
‘He painted the landscape with a dry brush, leaving plenty of white paper showing through and using a range of textures to suggest distant hillside and grass underfoot. From the depths of this landscape, almost at the Giant’s feet, a fence comes swooping out to meet us, the posts and barbed wire taut and purposeful, while the wayward squares of mesh seem almost to dance away from us down the hill. A stand of corn on the left tells us the season and teasingly suggests a crowd of onlookers, leaning towards the chalk figure, while a single fence post, dark and square, and by far the biggest object in the painting, leans towards it from the right. From this post three perfectly even strands of wire extend across the painting, not so much framing as snaring the giant – trapping the moment.’
James Russell is an art historian, curator and author with a special interest in 20th/21st century British artists, and has published a number of books on the art of Eric Ravilious, including Ravilious, Ravilious in Pictures 1: Sussex and the Downs, Ravilious in Pictures 2: The War Paintings, Ravilious in Pictures 3: A Country Life, Ravilious in Pictures 4: A Travelling Artist, and Ravilious: Submarine, the last five of which are published by the Mainstone Press. James can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and also presides over a rather good blog.
‘The Wilmington Giant’ is included in Ravilious Collection Pt.1.