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Eric Ravilious Downland Man

×The Exhibition CLOSED on 31 January 2022


His watercolours have such a spirit of place you can almost feel the wind on your cheeks and hear the birds above!

Exhibition ran at Wiltshire Museum between 25 September 2021 and 30 January 2022

An exhibition at Wiltshire Museum, exploring for the first time, Eric Ravilious’s (1903-1942) fascination for the chalk downlands of Wiltshire and Sussex.

From his student days until the last year of his life, Eric Ravilious returned again and again to the Downs, inspired particularly by the relationship between landscape and people.  Watercolours and wood engravings included in the exhibition show dew ponds and farmyards, a cement works and a field roller, modern military fortifications and ancient monuments.  Iconic watercolours such as The Westbury Horse and The Wilmington Giant, are displayed alongside other rarely-seen works.  The exhibition offers a new view of the artist as a chronicler of the landscape he knew better than any other.

The exhibition, taking place at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, will explore this attraction and relate it to the national fascination with downland landscapes, mythology and archaeology, which gripped Britain between the wars.  It will include darkly menacing war-time views of the coastline, including the famous ‘White Cliffs’ of Dover.

The exhibition is masterminded by guest curator, James Russell, who created the successful Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2015.  He has also written an illustrated catalogue to accompany this exhibition.

Bringing an international standard art exhibition to the County

For the very first time Wiltshire Museum will be borrowing over 20 artworks from major National Museums to bring an international standard art exhibition to the County. The show will appeal to art lovers across the country and to local people who love the iconic local landscapes.  We have secured a significant range of evocatyive watercolours for the display from Tate and V&A as well as private lenders. Other lenders include the Imperial War Museum, British Museum, National Museum of Wales and the prestigious Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.

Puffin Dummy Book from the Wiltshire Museum collections

Central to the exhibition are  Ravilious’s best-loved watercolours of chalk figures were made in 1939 in preparation for a children’s book, Downland Man.  The book was never completed, and for many years the prototype or ‘dummy’ made by Ravilious was believed lost.  When it resurfaced in 2012 this precious relic was bought at auction by Wiltshire Museum. Although never published, it contains delicate pencil drawings of chalk hill figures, ancient monuments and prehistoric earthworks in Wiltshire. The idea behind the series of books was to promote patriotism in the youth of England as the Second World War loomed.

Visits and Events

We are organising events linked to the exhibition.

If you are interested in bringing a group to see the exhibition, having a guided tour or a lecture to your group, then please get in touch -

Please note -

Large bags not permitted in the Ravilious Exhibition Galleries.

Photography not permitted in the exhibition galleries.

Exhibition runs at Wiltshire Museum between 25 September 2021 and 30 January 2022
For details of opening times and to pre-book - CLICK HERE

Download the poster

Please download the exhibition poster here and share with anyone who may be interested!

Funding and Support

The exhibition has been made possible with funding from the following:

Corporate sponsors: Gaiger Construction and Development and Wansbroughs Solicitors

Donations from our Members and Supporters.


Sponsor logos


This exhibition has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme.  The Wiltshire Museum would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

Wiltshire Museum would also like to thank all the lenders for their support:

  • British Museum
  • East Sussex Brighton and Hove Record Office
  • IWM (Imperial War Museum)
  • Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
  • Private Lenders
  • Tate
  • Towner Eastbourne
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
Copyright: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
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