Tuesday 21 May 2024

The Springtime of Flight

 I happened upon this picture online, and my first thought was that it might be by Badmin or Tunnicliffe or another of the Shell/Ladybird stable of gifted illustrators. In fact it is the work of Tirzah Garwood, the talented wife and widow of Eric Ravilious, and is one of twenty or so distinctive oil paintings she produced towards the end of her life, moving on from her usual lines of wood engraving and paper marbling. Called The Springtime of Flight and painted in 1950, the picture brings together three vernal elements – spring flowers, a spring butterfly and an early aeroplane from, yes, the springtime of flight – into a charming composition with a slightly otherworldly feel, more like an instructive composition than an actual landscape. The flowers are very nicely, and accurately, done – and so is the Brimstone butterfly, and that is a rare thing in art. Nabokov took a severe line on the failure of most artists to paint butterflies at all accurately: ‘Only myopia,’ he declared (in a 1970 interview), ‘condones the blurry generalisations of ignorance. In high art and pure science detail is everything.’ Well, Tirzah Garwood's delightful painting is not 'high art', but that is a very well painted Brimstone – accurate enough, I think, to satisfy even Nabokov. 


  1. Thank you for introducing me to this artist and her work. According to her Wikipedia page, the Dulwich Art Gallery will have an exhibition of her work this year.

    1. Thanks, Wurmbrand – I didn't know that.