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19 May 2020‘So They Do Cook, After All!’. Ravilious, Bawden and The Great Bardfield Artists.
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‘So They Do Cook, After All!’. Ravilious, Bawden and The Great Bardfield Artists. Jo Walton Tuesday 19 May 2020


In 1932 the artist Edward Bawden and his wife Charlotte moved into Brick House, in the Essex village of Great Bardfield, initially sharing the house with another artistic couple, Eric Ravilious and Tirzah Garwood. It was to be the beginning of a fascinating artistic community.

In the years before and during the Second World War painters, printmakers and designers settled in the village, relishing the peace while remaining within easy reach of London.  While Bawden and Ravilious saw active service as War Artists (Ravilious dying in 1942), other artists captured the soon-to-change world of rural England through the Recording Britain project.

By the mid-1950s a diverse, innovative but highly creative group had made Bardfield their home – much to the bemusement of the local villagers, who found the complex relationships and artistic focus of the newcomers rather baffling. In 1954 the artists invited the public into their homes and studios to see their work, starting the increasingly popular ‘Open Studios’ movement that now covers the country, and persuading some of their neighbours that artists could be quite normal people after all!

Jo Walton

At the age of five I decided to become an archaeologist – but later changed my mind when I discovered how cold and wet it could be digging in the rain.

Luckily my parents loved visiting interesting places, so my childhood love of history was enthusiastically (and much more comfortably) encouraged with frequent trips to art galleries and museums. When I first had the chance to study art history, as a sixth former, I found that I was meeting paintings and sculptures that were already old friends – and I’ve continued to be intensely curious about art and its histories ever since.

I read art history at Leicester University, then went on to do a post-graduate diploma in Oxford, specialising in the art and architecture of fifteenth century Italy. This was a wonderful opportunity to explore one of the most vibrant and exciting periods in history – and to do so surrounded by the marvellous collections of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.

A job in a bookshop turned into a happy and successful twenty-year career in the book trade, eventually running a specialist art bookshop in London, and working with the auctioneers, Christies. I also thoroughly enjoyed teaching adult education classes in art history and, for twelve years, I was a volunteer guide for Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

Much of my work now is with The Art Society (NADFAS), but I also lecture for The Art Fund and for local art groups and societies. Some years ago I lectured on several P&O cruise liners, discovering, rather to my surprise, that I loved being at sea in very large ships.

I really enjoy lecturing and introducing audiences to the periods, places and artworks that I love. Travelling for The Art Society has introduced me to many areas of Britain that I didn’t know, and it’s also given me the chance to meet fascinating people and learn so much from their experiences and their responses to my talks.