Gwen Raverat (1895 - 1957)
The granddaughter of Naturalist Charles Darwin, Gwen Raverat was one of the first British women to insist on and achieve professional training as an artist. She attended the Slade School in 1908, quickly developing her own painterly style of engraving. She was a highly individual and intensely personal artist who contributed greatly to the revival of wood engraving as an original art form at the beginning of the twentieth century. Her first engravings date from 1909 and by 1920 she joined Eric Gill, Edward Gordon Craig, and Robert Gibbings in founding the Society of Wood Engravers.
Most of her work prior to 1932 was in the form of single prints and all are now rare. She adopted a simple yet striking style of wood engraving technique concentrating upon the use of stark contrast to create her highly individual and stylish designs.
During her early years she became friends with Stanley Spencer, her cousin Ralph Vaughan Williams, André Gide, Eric Gill, Paul Valéry, Vanessa and Virginia Stephen (soon to be Bell and Woolf). She married French painter Jacques Raverat in 1911, moving to Vence, near Nice, where several of her best known prints were made. During this time she maintained an active association with The Bloomsbury Group.
After her husband’s death in 1925 Gwen moved back to England and re-invented herself as an art critic and professional wood-engraver and book illustrator. In 1929 she produced the designs for ‘A Masque for Dancing’ by Vaughan Williams and Ninette de Valois. By the outbreak of the war she had moved back to Cambridge and during the ensuing years drew maps for the Admiralty. In 1946 she she moved into the Old Granary, now part of Newnham Grange, Cambridge.
Gwen Raverat wrote ‘Period Piece’ in 1949, and it has never been out of print since it was first published in 1952.