Long Live Great Bardfield, by Tirzah Garwood
Edited and with a preface by Anne Ullmann.
When Tirzah Garwood was 18 she went to Eastbourne School of Art and here she was taught by Eric Ravilious. Over the next four years she did many wood engravings and these were widely praised and several were displayed by the Society of Wood Engravers. Alas, after she and Eric were married in 1930 a large part of her time was spent on domestic chores. In 1935 she had the first of her three children. In 1942 – the year she was operated on for breast cancer – she wrote her autobiography (in the evening, after the children were in bed); this has now been published with the title Long Live Great Bardfield: The Autobiography of Tirzah Garwood.
In The Wood Engravings of Tirzah Ravilious (1987) the novelist and designer Robert Harling wrote: ‘The manifold talents of Tirzah as wood engraver, artist and designer (especially of exquisite marbled papers) were well-known to her friends, but have been virtually extinguished by the steadily growing fame of Ravilious’s achievements. Tirzah was content for this to be so, for she was uncommonly and genuinely modest and a devoted wife and mother, but as far as her work was concerned, she certainly lost out.’
When she began her autobiography Tirzah wrote: ‘I hope, dear reader, that you may be one of my descendants, but as I write a German aeroplane has circled round above my head taking photographs of the damage that yesterday’s raiders have done, reminding me that there is no certainty of our survival. If you are not one of my descendants then all I ask of you is that you love the country as I do, and when you come into a room, discreetly observe its pictures and its furnishings, and sympathise with painters and craftsmen.’
And as her daughter Anne Ullmann observes in the Preface, writing was undoubtedly therapeutic, it enabled her to stand back and look at her life and helped her at a time of adversity to sort out a way forward.’ She concludes: ‘Time and the honesty of Tirzah’s words have made this an immensely important document and it is a valuable primary record of a woman who was at the centre of an important group of artists, and who was herself a very good artist in her own right.’