Eileen Lucy 'Tirzah' Garwood made around only 20 paintings in her lifetime and this work, Hornet with Wild Roses, is one of the most enchanting. At a time when we cannot go too far from home, and wander into the lush and green British landscapes, and as we crave the warmth of the summer sun on our bodies, take a look at this work and venture into Garwood's postwar-era garden view.
Although better known for her intricate wood engravings and exquisite marbling, Garwood was also an accomplished painter. Born in 1908, she was educated at Eastbourne School of Art, where she was taught wood engraving by painter Eric Ravilious, who in 1930 become her husband. Garwood was an accomplished engraver with an eye for social observation, but receiving little outright success in her ventures, she moved on to develop her skills as a muralist, pattern and decorative marbled paper designer. It was not until towards the very end of her life that she worked as an oil painter.
In real life, perhaps surprisingly, this painting has a near miniature quality to it. Measuring just 28 cm by 38 cm, this bijou canvas is filled with foliage, flowers and plant life. It has a slight air of the surreal, due to the flatness of the insects and the cocked angles of the trees, all of which characterise Garwood's oil paintings.
The sting of the hornet and the softness of the rose, meanwhile, contrast elegantly. The painting can help us further understand and expand upon the artist's earlier works, such as this playful series created in the 1940s, which again show her interest in unusual scale.
Garwood's painting was purchased by Towner in 1952, the year after the artist's premature death from cancer, and has been a popular work to exhibit in a variety of contexts since. In 2017, Towner's exhibition 'Ravilious & Co: A Pattern of Friendship' cast an overdue light on Garwood's life and achievements. The work was also recently chosen by Green MP and environmental campaigner Caroline Lucas, who curated an exhibition of works from Towner's collection that resonate with her passions and interests, from her environmental work, issues of climate change and effects on our landscape.
Garwood's career was largely put on hold as she raised her family, like so many other women of her generation – and as continues for women artists working today. As Towner expands its collection of works by overlooked female artists, it is hoped that Garwood's popularity will also grow again.
Nicola Jeffs, Towner Eastbourne