“They Began Slowly to Travel Along the Coast Between Bombay and Ceylon”, an illustration to ‘Lady Filmy Fern’

“They Began Slowly to Travel Along the Coast Between Bombay and Ceylon”, an illustration to ‘Lady Filmy Fern’


“They Began Slowly to Travel Along the Coast Between Bombay and Ceylon”, an illustration to ‘Lady Filmy Fern’

c. 1930 England

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Bawden’s long and versatile career embraced the fine and applied arts with equal success. His reputation as painter, designer and illustrator was well established even before he was appointed an Official War Artist in 1940. Between 1922 and 1925 he took a diploma in book illustration at the Royal College of Art, where his design tutor was Paul Nash. Nash helped Bawden to get his earliest commissions for poster designs – for London Transport and the Curwen Press. Eric Ravilious was one of Bawden’s closest friends at the Royal College of Art. The two artists worked together on a mural design in 1928, while Bawden began to make a name for himself with designs for Shell advertisements.

Bawden’s work as a War Artist took him to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. After the war and his return to England he worked on many illustration projects, murals, linocuts and landscape watercolours. His technical abilities in a variety of media were wide- ranging, and his treatment of subject matter was witty and highly individual.

Bawden was appointed CBE in 1946, became an RA in 1956, was a trustee of the Tate Gallery in the 1950s and was given a retrospective exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1989.

Lady Filmy Fern or The Voyage of the Window Box, written by Thomas Hennell, was created from a series of illustrations made by Bawden in the 1930s, although the resulting book was not published until 1980. It is a fantasy story in the tradition of Lewis Carroll: the characters had grown out of a game of ‘consequences’ played by Bawden, Hennell, Ravilious and their wives during weekends spent together before the war. Our drawing was reproduced as plate no. 12, depicting the main character and her companion travelling atop an elephant through India.

The present drawing is one of the original 1930s designs, which Bawden stored, along with other drawings, down a well in his garden for safe-keeping during the war years. Bawden recovered the drawings and in the 1980s added to those made some fifty years earlier, with new illustrations for the book’s publication.
Provenance: Mrs Braga, Virginia, USA

Exhibited: The Fine Art Society Ltd., London, ‘Lady Filmy Fern’, September 1980
Height 23.30 cm (9.17 inches)
Width 29.00 cm (11.42 inches)
Stock Code
Pen and ink and watercolour with wax crayon
Signed Signed and inscribed on the original mount ‘No. 12’, ‘The Sights of India’; also numbered ‘15’.

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Martyn Gregory Gallery
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