If there was ever a case of a book's introduction taking on a life of its own, then this is it. The plan was to publish Ravilious's Submarine Series of auto-lithographs along with short accompanying essays and a brief introduction, but as we got deeper into the research this first section of the book began to grow. What started off as a bit of background on how Ravilious came to be making lithographs turned into a thorough-going survey of auto-lithography in the early 20th century, particularly the revolution in children's book illustration that began in Soviet Russia in the early 1920s.
What we've ended up with is a gorgeous book full of illustrations from Russia, France and Britain, many of them never published before, and with a text that covers everything from Lenin's views on education to the wartime submariner's favourite recipes. And the title sounds so straightforward!
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.
'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
'Alluring... convivial...' Paul Laity, The Guardian
PAUL NASH IN PICTURES: LANDSCAPE AND DREAM
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...
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.
This is not a commercial site, so clicking on the pictures above will only make them bigger. To buy my books, please contact the publisher, ask your local bookshop or use the bibliophile's favourite website, bookfinder.com.