High Street, Eric Ravilious



High Street, illustrated by Eric Ravilious

High Street has become one of the most highly regarded artist’s books of its time. Published in London by Country Life Books in 1938. High Street was written by J.M. Richards and illustrated by the artist Eric Ravilious (1903-1942). Since his untimely death in the second world war the reputation of Eric Ravilious has grown considerably. His work is much sought after by collectors. This book with its beautiful lithographs is now considered one of Eric Ravilious’ finest pieces of illustration, artwork and design.

High Street is a book about shops. It contains twenty-four lithographs by Eric Ravilious. Shops have always been a central part of British life, they form the heart of our cities, towns and villages. They brighten our streets and entice us with their colour, display and utility. Eric Ravilious, already a successful artist, illustrator and designer by the age of thirty, saw the beauty of these shops and began to float the idea of the book.

High Street was slow to evolve as a project. Ravilious had been working with the Curwen Press, an innovative printing company that was encouraging and enabling  artists to master the beauty of lithography as an art form. It was here that Ravilious saw the potential for this book.

Ravilious and his mastery of lithography

In the UK in the 1930s lithography became a printing process much loved by artists. In the hands of many artists, wonderful prints, posters and books were produced with this printing technique. Working on lithographic stones, or plates, an artist can draw directly in a way that allows them to overlay colour and capture the immediacy of touch. It is a technique that creates rich and colourful overlaid images. Ravilious mastered this process, creating this unique and beautiful book.

This copy of High Street is rare and original. This book was not a limited edition but because the lithographic plates were destroyed during the Blitz only 2000 copies are known to have been produced. Many copies of the book are known to have been taken apart so that the lithographs can be individually framed, thus, this is a rare copy.

Book condition

This copy of High Street by Eric Ravilious is in very good condition. The book is known to have a weakness in the spine that means that often copies have been damaged when pulled from a bookshelf. This copy of High Street has hardly been opened. There is some fox-marking on the end-papers but the lithographs are clean and bright. There are some small scuffs at the top and bottom of the spine and on the cover edges.

If you have any questions about this copy or would like to see more images please get in touch.

You can also click here to read our article on the beauty of hand-drawn lithography and see some other artists’ work.

The Story of High Street

We also have for sale a copy of ‘ Eric Ravilious, The Story of High Street‘. A limited edition of 750 copies, published by Mainstone Press, Norwich in 2008. This is a wonderful and detailed study of the story of how High Street was conceived and produced. Beautifully printed, it shows early sketches for the book and tells the story of the entire team behind this book.

Click here to also see other work by Eric Ravilious:  Twelfth Night, with woodcuts by Eric Ravilious, A Wedgwood plate designed by Ravilious.

Eric Ravilious and the Towner Gallery

The Towner Gallery is a contemporary art gallery and museum based in South East England. It is situated close to the South Downs which were a favourite subject for Ravilious and where he lived. The gallery has many of his works on show.

Visit the Towner Gallery website.

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