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Eric Ravilious: Downland Man – page under development

×This page is under development. Coronavirus update: Exhibition opens 25 September 2021 and closes 30 January 2022.

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

An exhibition 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 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 confirmed important loans from Tate and V&A as well as private lenders. We are also liaising with the Imperial War Museum, British Museum, National Museum of Wales and the prestigious Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, as well as private lenders, to secure a significant range of evocative watercolours for the display.

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 -

Exhibition OPENS 25 September 2021 through to 30 January 2022

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.



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
  • National Museum Wales
  • Private Lenders
  • Towner Eastbourne
  • Victoria and Albert Museum

Related events

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Eric Ravilious: Downland Man exhibition

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Donation Total: £50.00

  • 30th January 2012
Copyright: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society
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