TNC Film 2023
June 7, 2023
During a press trip to Waddesdon Manor over lunch I struck up a conversation with neighbour, award-winning filmmaker Margy Kinmonth. Sat beneath one of two enormous murals by Edward Bawden, Margy spoke with passion and insight about Bawden and the subject of her latest feature documentary Eric Ravilious. Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War is the first official war artist to die in active service during the Second World War. By the time of his death that time Ravilious had already established himself as one of the most distinctive, prolific and successful artists.
Having become one of the most popular and successful feature documentaries films released in the past year Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War is currently available at Curzon Home Cinema.
Hi Margy, thank you so much for talking to The New Current; it was a pleasure meeting you yesterday at Waddesdon Manor. Over lunch in The Stables we sat in front of a monumental mural by Edward Bawden called The English Pub (1949–51). Was this the first time you had seen a work by Bawden in this setting?
It was great to meet you, too. It was amazing to see the two Bawden murals at Waddesdon Manor and sit underneath them. I’d never seen them before, and it reminded me that the artist Eric Ravilious, the subject of my film “Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War,” worked with Edward Bawden on the Morely Murals in the 1920s. Murals were a tradition that I thought had gone out of date, but they work so well here and now. People should commission more!
What was it like for you to be able to step back and take in this incredible work?
I loved looking at them—fantastic, fabulous colour palette, and very witty. Edward Bawden has done these since Ravilious died. “The English Pub,” done for cruise liners in 1949, and “Garden Delights,” for the Festival of Britain in 1951, seem very derivative of the style that Ravilious and Bawden established together, with strong design and plenty of greenhouses, flowers, chimneys with stylised smoke, bicycles, and village scenes.
During your research for your feature documentary, Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War, what would you say made Ravilious and Bawden's creative and professional relationship so important?
They started out together, getting their first mural commission at the Royal College of Art, and enjoyed companionship and true creative collaboration. They were lifelong friends, and they all later shared a house together in Great Bardfield, Essex. I've been there; it's called Brick House, and it's well worth a visit. The story about the Morely Murals is all in my film “Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War”. They spent two years painting them, and then they were blown up and completely destroyed in a massive bomb one night during the London Blitz in 1940.
"It's been a pure pleasure showing the film in cinemas across the UK in the beautiful locations where Ravilious chose to paint."
Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War has become a sleeper hit and has gained a lot of favourable notice, with Tim Robey's 4-star review in The Telegraph concluding, ‘This fine overview does convince you of his singularity while also coaxing you into the sunlit, subtly clouded uplands of his lost world.’ At the Romford Film Festival, you won the Audience Award for Best Documentary. What has it meant to you to see how much your film and Ravilious life and story have connected with audiences?
I am absolutely delighted that the film has been such a massive success in over 400 venues. Ravilious deserves so much recognition and should be up there alongside Turner, Constable, and Hockney. I have my lovely audiences to thank for this; they flocked to the film in lockdown and during a heatwave. It's been a pure pleasure showing the film in cinemas across the UK in the beautiful locations where Ravilious chose to paint. Now it's going international and has been nominated for the Dumbo New York Film Festival.
This weekend, you’re going to be screening Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War at Emden Film Festival in Germany. How important is this type of screening for your film and for the subject?
Ravilious hardly ever went abroad himself, but the film is going down well all over the world. I introduced Ravilious to Ai Weiwei, the internationally known Chinese artist, who loves his work. It's so important to make sure his artistic legacy lives on.
Did you attend the 2015 Dulwich Picture Gallery retrospective, and what do you think it was about seeing Ravilious that led to this re-evaluation of his incredible contribution to British art?
Yes, I went; it was an unforgettable show, as well as the big Imperial War Museums exhibition. It's hard to expose watercolours, so they can't be exposed to the light for very long, or the colours fade. I'm proud that my film constitutes the biggest ever collection of Ravilious in one place, and my film will never fade.
When did you realise you wanted to make a documentary about Ravilious’s life?
When my grandmother took me as a child to the old Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, I saw the alphabet handkerchief. But also, like Ravilious, I always like travelling by train, so we share that window on the world.
Do you think your documentary, the first to focus on Ravilious work and life, will contribute to more people discovering his story and work?
What has been the most valuable thing you have taken away from this experience, and is there anything you would have done differently?
Just go for it! No regrets. And I have endless thanks to everyone who helped me make it happen.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking, and how much has your approach to your films and subjects changed since you started out?
Yes, always since I was in art school. I have made films on so many subjects: Francis Bacon, Haute Couture, LS Lowry, Paul Nash, Jack Yeats, the Irish painter, and a film with King Charles III called the Royal Paintbox; the Hermitage Museum; the Mariinsky Theatre; Naked Hollywood; Revolutionary Russian Art; Stephen Berkoff; Dawn French; and The Nutcracker. All titles, including Eric Ravilious, are available on my website and on Instagram at @Raviliousfilm and @Margy_Kinmonth.
Do you have any advice, tips, or suggestions you would offer anyone thinking about a career in film?
Be original, learn to draw, and keep a diary.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Eric Ravilious's Drawn to War?
Be inspired by art and go back for a second viewing!