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Wednesday’s Woman … Tirzah Garwood

April 24, 2013

Tirzah Garwood (1908-1951) was one of Ravilious’ pupils at the Eastbourne School of Art. Although she was considered one of his most talented wood engravers, she gave up printing five years later.  During this time she produced single prints or ephemeral pieces that appeared in journals and  other publications, such as the libretto of a oratorio of Pilgrims Progress for the tercentenary of John Bunyan’s birth and line-drawings for the Listener.  She also exhibited in four of the Society of Wood Engravers’ annual exhibitions.  Although they were favourably received at the time they have neglected by historians since.

It is said that although she was influenced by Ravilious; she formulated her own personal style consisting of large rectangular scenes, dominated with robust characters with equally powerful backdrop; detailed with highly decorated wallpaper, carpets and curtains.

Joanna Selborne in the British wood-engraved book illustration, 1904-1940 : a break with tradition tells us that Tirzah shared with Ravilious a wry sense of humour ready to poke fun at the domestic and social scene.  She was drawn to oddities in her subjects ‘like herself, unpredictable, delightful and a little dotty’ She cared for animals especially cats and dogs; so they featured much in her work. Tirzah’s characters generally were depicted with detailed expressions; she was careful to reveal their personalities.

It was her marriage to Eric Ravilious in 1930 that marked the end of her career in wood-engraving.  Although she did one or two more, for instance The Big Man was  published in 1931.

In 1932 she began to work in oils and watercolour, also making paper models and marbled paper and continued until her untimely death in 1951.

Referring to experts at the time Selborne says that “ Tirzah had a streak of Ravilious’ trickiness, with much irony of her own. She goes on to say that ‘his influence was far outweighed by the individuality of her style and her penetrating and quirky observations  of contemporary life which was quite unlike those of any of her contemporaries and sadly short-lived

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