Train Journey print by Tirzah Garwood – £11,000 at Cheffins.

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Previously best known as the wife of Eric Ravilious, she shot to prominence commercially when a painting of two donkeys in a stable sold for a multi-estimate £24,000 at Cheffins’ sale of works from the collection of Cambridge County Council in May 2017.

Her works are exceedingly rare at auction, largely due to the fact that her output reduced significantly after the couple married and, like her husband, she died young having been diagnosed with cancer in 1948.

A few prints have emerged over the last two years, however, selling for ever-increasing amounts as she continues to emerge from the shadow of her better-known husband. Previously her woodcuts would make under £500 but then one made a record £2100 at Sworders in June 2020. Another woodcut titled Crocodile then sold for £3600 again at Sworders in May last year.

Print record

More recently, a significant record for a Garwood print came at Cheffins' (24.5% buyer’s premium) Art & Design auction in Cambridge on February 24.

Train Journey, a 7½ x 5½in (19 x 14cm) wood engraving, came from an edition of 30 – much fewer than the print runs of 500 for Crocodile, for example, as well as the small number of other prints that have sold at auction before.

Garwood met Ravilious at Eastbourne College in 1925 – he was then her wood-engraving tutor – and Train Journey was produced by Garwood before their marriage in 1930. The fact that it seems to contain a hint towards Ravilious’ later and more famous Train landscape, a 1940 watercolour that was also made into a print, gave it extra appeal.

The work had also appeared at an exhibition at The Fry Gallery in 2012 and was uncharacteristically signed and numbered – two more factors standing in its favour.

Estimated at £2500-4000, it sold at £11,000 to a private London buyer on The sum was triple the previous high for a Garwood print and the second highest at auction for any of her works.