Description: Watercolour on paper, 1938. Gavin Henderson, Second Baron Farindon, was a Labour politician and prominent member of the Fabian Society. He was also affiliated with the Artist’s International Association, a group composed of artists who supported the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War. In need of funds, the Artist’s International Association contacted Ravilious with the request that if commissioned for a painting, he donate his fee for the commission, to the Association. Ravilious agreed to this, and Gavin Henderson, having recently inherited his title and the Buscot Park Estate, provided the commission.
Ravilious and his wife Tirzah spent a weekend at Buscot Park in June of 1938. About the house Ravilious wrote: ‘Faringdon was such a palatial country house, the grandest I was ever in, and the park and the lakes were lovely too – there were white peacocks and black swans and a whale’s jaw bones in the garden’.
This painting reflects the beauty, but this is not simply a beautiful painting. In recognition that Ravilious often sought complexity in his pictures, Tirzah notes in her biography: ‘Fortunately the grass was being mown and he painted the varying stripes of grass in the foreground, and a storm was coming up behind in the sky’. The storm is akin to the rusty fence, the barbed wire, the discarded piece of machinery which Ravilious so often chose to depict. It allows a hint of realism – and perhaps, painted as it was in 1938, even a looming sense of what were to become catastrophic events in Europe. It is an exceptional painting, and also a painting of a quite beautiful house.