Charles Darwin’s Links to Vence Highlighted in Family Exhibition Through to end-March

Gwen Raverat (1885-1957), grand-daughter of Charles Darwin, and herself a celebrated print-maker and miniaturist, spear-headed the revival of wood engraving in the 20th Century and now for the first time in 90 years her work can be seen in France.

La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (Credit VENCE TOURISME)

La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (Credit VENCE TOURISME)

Theme: Deux Darwin à Vence Exhibition
Saturday March 7 to Saturday March 28 2015 from 14:00 onwards
Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs
5, place Frédéric-Mistral, 06140 Vence
Admission is free

A granddaughter of Charles Darwin, Gwen Raverat was friends with many early twentieth century bohemian artists and writers, including Virginia Woolf, Eric Gill and André Gide. She grew up and spent her last years in Cambridge.

La Place en Ete, Vence 1923 ( Copyright  Raverat Ltd & Elisabeth Hambro 2015

La Place en Ete, Vence 1923 ( Copyright  Raverat Ltd & Elisabeth Hambro 2015

Now running from March 7 to the end of the month the first exhibition of her work to be shown in France for 90 years can be found at the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs in Vence.

One of the most significant periods of her life (both artistically and personally) was spent in Vence, where she lived from 1920 until the death of her husband, the painter, Jacques Raverat, in 1925 (see bio below). Gwen drew great inspiration from her French surroundings and used her distinctive “engraving with light” style to depict the people, streets and life of Vence.

Her grandson, William Pryor, who manages the archive of her work, notes: “The medieval centre of Vence captivated my grandmother. As can be seen in many of her Vence engravings she was enthralled by the effect the light had on the buildings in its narrow streets. She was also very taken with the Vencoise going about their daily lives. Indeed some of her best known works illustrate the main square with its gossiping women and games of boules. It’s been said that the five years my grandmother spent in France were the closest she came to freedom from the constraint of being a Darwin. So we are thrilled to be able to present the Deux Darwins en Vence. It is a homecoming that has significance to both the history of Vence and its culture. ”

Gwen Raverat was a co-founder of the Society of Wood Engravers and did a lot to popularise the art form in the UK and beyond.

The Vence exhibition will be very much a family affair. It marks the first collaboration between Gwen and her granddaughter, abstract artist and fellow Darwin descendant, Lucy Raverat. It will also include a limited number of paintings by Gwen’s husband, Jacques – the first time they have ever been made public.

Here are some personal musings about the artist — A major artist in a minor field: the wood engravings of Gwen Raverat — found on the Adventures in the Print Trade Blog.

“I suppose I’ve been aware of Gwen Raverat’s wood engravings for most of my life, though without ever knowing how to pronounce her name: the final “t” is silent, so the correct pronunciation is more like Raverar. Her husband, the artist Jacques Raverat, was French, and Gwen and Jacques lived in Vence from 1920 until Jacques’ early death from multiple sclerosis in 1925.

“It was in Provence that Gwen created what for me are her most perfect works, from a lifetime total of nearly 600 engraved woodblocks.

“Gwen Raverat was born in Cambridge in 1885. Her eccentric family were part of the intellectual elite of Cambridge. Charles Darwin was her grandfather, and late in life she wrote a brilliant childhood memoir, Period Piece, which brings the family dramas of the Darwins to life. She would be an interesting person simply for her Darwin heritage, her close involvement in the Cambridge Neo-Pagans led by Rupert Brooke, and her tangential but intimate entwinement with the Bloomsbury Group, if she herself had never produced any original art. But she did, and it is art of such quality that Joanna Selborne in the monograph and catalogue raisonné Gwen Raverat: wood engraver describes her as “a major artist in a minor field”.

Family affair in Vence
It’s been said that the five years Gwen spent in France were the closest she ever came to freedom from the constraint of being a Darwin. It is certainly true that Vence, a small town west of Nice, where she lived with artist husband – Jacques Raverat – provided the inspiration for some of her most enduring works. Given the strong connections, we’re thrilled to be taking our show, featuring works from Gwen and her granddaughter – the artist Lucy Raverat – to Vence. Our exhibition at La Chapelle des Pénitents Blanc will run from 7 – 28 March 2015. It’s a fantastic space, which will bring the artworks to life beautifully. Stay tuned for further updates.

From Wikipedia: “Jacques Pierre Paul Raverat (1885– March 6, 1925) was a French painter; Raverat was the son of Georges Pierre Raverat, born in Paris, France in 1885. He married the English painter and wood engraver Gwen Darwin, in 1911, the daughter of George Darwin and Lady Maud Darwin, née Maud du Puy; she was a granddaughter of Charles Darwin. They had two daughters, Elisabeth (1916–2014), who married the Norwegian politician Edvard Hambro and Sophie Jane (1919-2011) who married the Cambridge scholar M.G.M. Pryor and later Charles Gurney. Raverat suffered from a form of multiple sclerosis and died on March 6 1925 following complications of it. Before relocating, in 1920, to Vence in France the couple were active members of an intellectual circle known as the “Neo-Pagans” and centred round Rupert Brooke. They also moved on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group, whose members included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell and Lytton Strachey. In 2004, his grandson, William Pryor edited the complete correspondence between Raverat, his wife and Virginia Woolf which was published as Virginia Woolf and the Raverats…”

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One Response to Charles Darwin’s Links to Vence Highlighted in Family Exhibition Through to end-March

  1. nitramrekcap April 26, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Does anyone know where Jacques RAVERAT is buried, or was he cremated in Vence?

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