WORLD-famous artist Eric Ravilious lived for long periods of his life in Great Bardfield and Castle Hedingham.

And many of his watercolours and other works feature scenes of Essex.  

Ravilious went largely forgotten by the art establishment following his tragic death in 1942 until his children discovered a stash of paintings under his bed in the 1970s.

Now recognised as a master, the reputation of Ravilious - and his connection with Brick House, in Great Bardfield, and his other home in St James Street, Castle Hedingham - is set to soar even more with the release of a new film Ravilious: Drawn To War.

The documentary, which has received rave reviews, does not shy from revealing how Ravilious was a womaniser with the dashing good looks of Clark Gable who spent a lifetime cheating on his adoring wife.

When she was giving birth to their first child, Ravilious was with his lover, fellow artist Helen Binyon.


Director Margy Eric Ravilious

Director Margy Eric Ravilious


Ravilious also had an long-standing affair with another painter, the beautiful Diana Low.

The son of a junk dealer, Ravilious was a charming man, with a huge zest for life, and love, which was often infectious.

His wife Tirzah Garwood - herself a respected artist and the mother of his three children - described him as “a cad and butterfly”.

But when Ravilious, who had been appointed an official war artist, died in September 1942 after a plane on a search-and-rescue mission off the coast of Iceland crashed into the sea, Tirzah was still his wife, of 12 years.


Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious


She had - according to Andy Friend, author of the book Ravilious and Co - learned “to accept his transgressions with clear-eyed tolerance”.

Already revered as one of Britain’s greatest landscapists, Ravilious’ reputation and fame is set to soar with the release of the documentary Ravilious: Drawn To War.

His life was one which surely would make a feature film and his death mirrors that of band leader Glenn Miller - played by James Stewart in the 1953 Glenn Miller Story - who went missing in action in 1944 aged 40 (one year older than Ravilious when he died) when his aeroplane disappeared over the English Channel.

Certainly many fans of the much-loved artist and his pastoral and innocent depictions of a beautiful Britain of a bygone age, are likely to be surprised at the idea of Ravilious the Rake.


Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious


“You don’t want to ruin someone’s reputation and there are quite a lot of books on Ravilious and some of them don’t mention his affairs,” said Margy Kinmouth, the Bafta-winning director of the film. “But I thought it would be silly to airbrush them.

“He was absolutely gorgeous looking. The family gave me permission to use all the archives, so I was given a completely free rein.

“I found all these photographs that hadn’t been seen before and in one of them he looks exactly like Clark Gable.

“He was called ‘The Boy’ because he had these boyish good looks, plus he died before he was 40 so he never really grew up.

“There is something very weird about looking at people’s private letters and Ravilious wrote more of them to his girlfriends, than his wife.


Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious


“There were some I couldn’t include in the film because I was starting to take the side of his wife and started to feel sorry for her.

“In her autobiography she is stoic, tough and honest. I had these two characters who were in combat, but locked into this marriage and loved each other, which was great for my film.

“His daughter [Anne Ullmann] was a baby when he died. I took my cue from her because she was left the love letters from her father, and it took her eight years to have the courage to read them.”

Pointing out that Ravilious’ style changed markedly depending who was the main women in his life at the time - “his brushstrokes were very fluid when he was with Diana Low” - Kinmouth insisted the subject of her film deserves much more acclaim than he has had already.

She is not alone: Grayson Perry, Alan Bennett and Ai Weiwei rave about Ravilious in Drawn To War.

“I have been trying to make the film for ages,” added Kinmouth. “When you explain what his work is like people quickly realise they are familiar with it, through maybe tea-towels.

“He is not up there with Hockney or Turner or the big ones. That motivated me. I knew his life story is amazing and that made me determined to get the film made.”