RECENT BOOKS

THE LOST WATERCOLOURS OF EDWARD BAWDEN (MAINSTONE PRESS, 2016)


The culmination of a three-year-long mission to track down the pre-war watercolours of Edward Bawden, this is a gorgeous limited edition book. We tend to think of Bawden as a printmaker and illustrator with a humorous, idiosyncratic view of the world, but in the 1930s he was respected by critics and collectors as an innovative modern painter. Working alongside Eric Ravilious he reinvented the medium of watercolour, setting himself near-impossible artistic challenges and relishing the misery of the British plein air painter's lot. Some pictures remain unaccounted for, so keep your eyes open!

'...a beautifully produced book of essays and 60 largely unfamiliar plates that is not just a showcase for Bawden's distinctive type of English bucolic, but a demonstration of his experimentation and skills as a watercolourist."
'The Lost Watercolours', a 2016 Book of the Year, Michael Prodger, The Sunday Times (subscription), 27 Nov 2016

'The Lost Watercolours', a 2016 Book of the Year, The New Statesman, Nov 2016

"...at least half the examples, beautifully reproduced in this lavish limited-edition book, have not been seen in public in living memory."
'The Lost Watercolours of Edward Bawden' reviewed by Alan Powers, Country Life, 14 Sept 2016


RAVILIOUS IN PICTURES (4 VOLS, MAINSTONE PRESS, 2009-12)


The four books in this series were edited by Tim Mainstone and published by the Mainstone Press between 2009 and 2012. Initially we started out with just the one book, 'Ravilious in Pictures: Sussex and the Downs', which celebrated the relationship between watercolourist Eric Ravilious and the landscape of the chalk hills. Alongside each of twenty pictures I wrote a short essay exploring the intriguing stories hidden behind the scenes – stories about Ravilious and his circle, English culture in the 1930s and the constantly evolving landscape.


Yes, it's a slightly eccentric form of art history, but people seem to enjoy it. We planned a trilogy, only to realise that our trilogy would have to be slightly more substantial than most. In the end the four books, taken together, paint a captivating portrait of a British artist who is now beginning to enjoy the reputation he deserves. On the main blog you can read more about 'Sussex and the Downs', 'The War Paintings', 'A Country Life' and 'A Travelling Artist'.


'James Russell’s writing has the clarity and concision of the paintings, and is both properly informative and enjoyably readable... Glorious.' Andrew Lambirth, The Art Newspaper, Sept 2010

'Ravilious's watercolour landscapes... are beautifully reproduced here alongside insightful essays.' London Review of Books, Jan 2010

Ravilious in Pictures - review by Sarah Drury, The Art Book, August 2010

Ravilious in Sussex - feature, Angela Wintle, Sussex Life, June 2010

Ravilious in Pictures - review, All Things Considered blog, Nov 2009


Ravilious in Pictures - review, Emily Books blog, May 2011

Ravilious in Pictures/Ravilious at the RWA - review, Dove Grey Reader blog, June 2012

'Alluring...  convivial...' Paul Laity, 'Eric Ravilious: ups and Downs', The Guardian, 30 April 2011



PAUL NASH IN PICTURES: LANDSCAPE AND DREAM (MAINSTONE PRESS, 2011)


I have loved Nash's work since I had as a teenager a postcard on my wall of 'Landscape from a Dream', a painting that seemed evocative of loss or sadness. The image stayed with me and became the obvious choice for the cover of 'Paul Nash in Pictures: Landscape and Dream' when it was published by the Mainstone Press in 2011. So much has been written about Nash, but little gets close to his character or his humanity. The artist who gradually emerged as I studied his work was very different to the official version. And my teenage intuition about 'Landscape from a Dream' turned out to be right...


RAVILIOUS (PHILIP WILSON PUBLISHERS, 2015)


This started out as the exhibition catalogue for 'Ravilious' at Dulwich Picture Gallery (see exhibitions), but evolved into something more permanent. I particularly relished being able to show people life-size details of the watercolours.

'Excellent catalogue...' Richard Dorment, The Telegraph

'a handsome publication with excellent illustrations. Russell s commentaries on the individual exhibits are engaging, entertaining and enlightening. His introduction is compelling and refreshingly direct, urging us to look closely but concluding, rightly, that there can be no correct interpretations of Ravilious, whose pictures still quiver with mysterious life', Richard Green, Burlington Magazine

'Excellently illustrated...' Peyton Skipworth, Country Life


PEGGY ANGUS: DESIGNER, TEACHER, PAINTER (ANTIQUE COLLECTORS CLUB, 2014)


Peggy Angus was a remarkable person, and researching this book was a lot of fun. Everyone I met had a list of other people who had known Peggy, and everyone had a story to tell about her. This book (and the accompanying exhibition) took me from deepest Sussex to Shetland. A particular highlight was exploring her archive at the East Sussex Records Office - the stuff that turned up in there was amazing. The book and exhibition were sponsored by Cate Olson and Nash Robbins of Much Ado Books.


EDWARD SEAGO (LUND HUMPHRIES, 2014)


This was a commission from Portland Gallery, and was definitely a journey of discovery for me. I used to live in Norwich so knew Seago's work, but I hadn't really seen his wonderful watercolours. What I found most extraordinary, though, was exploring Seago's life and character. Whether you like his paintings or not, Ted Seago's life and character are compelling - adventurous, strange and full of contradictions. I still find him an enigma.


RAVILIOUS: WOOD ENGRAVINGS (MAINSTONE PRESS, 2013)


A compact survey of Ravilious's career as a wood engraver, this is a book to dip into and enjoy. The design on the cover was commissioned for the cover of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack in 1938 - and as far it's still there today. Ravilious was a cricket fan and occasional player; he wrote shortly before World War II that it was 'one of life's pleasures, hitting a six'.


RAVILIOUS: SUBMARINE (MAINSTONE PRESS, 2013)


A rather extraordinary book, this one. It began life quite simply, as a study of Ravilious's Submarine Lithographs, but the introductory essay turned into a stunningly illustrated survey of lithography between the wars, with examples from Russian, French and British children's books and all manner of other treats.


ERIC RAVILIOUS: THE STORY OF HIGH STREET


Published by the Mainstone Press in a limited edition of 750 copies in 2008, 'The Story of High Street' was a courageous undertaking for a small press and a wonderful success. The book includes the full text and pictures of 'High Street', the book of shops published by Country Life in 1938, along with two essays. Alan Powers investigated the making of 'High Street', while my role was that of historical detective, tracking down the 24 shops with the help of Tim Mainstone and Adrian Corder-Birch.

This art historical equivalent of a Grail Quest was unbelievably fun. I ran around London, hunting down the possible sites of shops and restaurants and discovering that one had become a fast food restaurant, another a betting shop, while others had been bombed. A pub in Camden looked exactly the same from the outside, but had been transformed within; a Jermyn Street cheesemonger was still going strong. In Essex the quest opened up stories about people whose lives are otherwise unrecorded. Fantastic.

Street Art: Eric Ravilious and High Street - Grafik 175, July 2009

Eric Ravilious: The Story of High Street - gallery, Wallpaper magazine, Dec 2008





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