Prints by Eric Ravilious (1903-42) don’t crop up too often, so when Sworders’ offered a collection of five lithographs from his ‘Submarines’ series at latest sale in Stansted Mountfitchet, there was understandably a good level of interest.
Together they added £13,900 to the Decorative Art and Design
sale's total of £193,000 on September 4.
The five impressions were from a series of ten produced in a
limited edition of 50 in 1940-41. Ravilious, who was appointed an
official war artist at the end of 1939, based these images on his
own drawings and photographs of the submarine base at HMS Dolphin
in Gosport, Hampshire and proposed to publish them as a children's
However, fears over the cost of publication led to the War
Artists' Committee abandoning the project, at which point Ravilious
decided to publish them himself.
Supervising the printing process, he frequently readjusted the
inking, with the result that colours vary across the edition, an
important factor in determining their value. Printed on wove paper
by W.S. Cowell of Ipswich, they each measured 11 x 12½in (28 x
Nowadays, individual impressions emerge on the market
occasionally, but two of them, entitled The Diver and
Ward Room 2, are considerably rarer as it is believed that
Ravilious never had time to complete the full run for these
The five at Sworders did not include these two and, as a group,
they were probably not in quite as good condition as a complete set
of ten sold by the Ravilious family at Christie's South Kensington
in April 2007 for £84,000.
Indeed, the prints at Sworders had been found pushed down the
side of a bed and the north London vendors were unaware of their
While auction records show that two prints from the series were
unsold at Sotheby's in October 2008, having been estimated at
£5000-7000 each, here at Sworders they were pitched at around half
that level. On the day, all five found interest and got away, with
four selling to the same dealer and the other knocked down to a
Four sold between £2300 and £2900, but the highest priced was
Commander Looking through a Periscope, which went above
its £2000-3000 estimate, selling for £3300.
The buyer's premium was 20%.
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