Long after the artist had died in the skies above WWII Britain, a “dummy” children’s Puffin picture book containing his sketches turned up at auction, where it realised almost £5000 against an upper estimate of £3,000; now, it is to go on display at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum, Devizes.
Just like auction rooms in Cumbria, antique chests and Victorian dining chairs aren’t the only things Sworders of Stansted specialise in, and back in January it was a “dummy” book of sketches by illustrator Eric Ravilious which got bidders exited. Titled “White Horses”, the sketches were those he’d made of the chalk figures on Wiltshire’s hillsides. Having finished his drawings, he put together a proposal for Noel Carrington, editor of Puffin Picture Books, who decided to go ahead with the project. Ravilious was putting the finishing touches to his creation when he was killed in an RAF plane crash, in 1942 – by which time his beloved white horses were already turfed over, to prevent enemy planes using them for navigation.
Many people searched for Ravilious’ “lost” book after the war, little realising it was safe in a filing cabinet. Despite attracting attention from private collectors, the winning bid came from Wiltshire Heritage Museum – a satisfying conclusion, as two of Ravilious’ White Horses are stabled nearby.
Although it’s not widely known, Eric Ravilious also made furniture in the 1930s. An antique dealer in Preston will have Victorian dining chairs of similar style, without the high commission rates of auction houses.
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