Offered by Hansons (20% buyer’s premium) and sold at £2050, this well-known work, in which Ravilious illustrated the text of architectural historian John M Richards, was first published in 1938. Its aim was to capture the life of the British ‘High Street’.
Only 2000 copies were initially printed at the Curwen Press for the publisher, Country Life, and within a very few years the litho plates for the book’s 24 coloured illustrations were lost during the London Blitz.
Ravilious had begun work on his lithographs in 1935, seeking out odd shops in London and country villages. They do include such once familiar sights as the butcher, but others show a coach builder, a knife grinder and even an oyster bar.
Salerooms tend to focus for illustration on the cover or the same few plates when copies come to auction, but Hansons did offer something different in ‘Wedding Cakes’.
John Piper wrote of the work at the time: “Ravilious is a particularly English artist… there is probably no-one else who could have made these records at once so faithfully and imaginatively. There is about them the suggestion that you are looking in at a series of gay, old-fashioned parties from the matter-of-fact street in the present.”