Gwen Raverat

Gwen Darwin was born in Cambridge in 1885; the granddaughter of the naturalist Charles Darwin and the first cousin of the poet Frances Cornford.  She married the French painter, Jacques Raverat, in 1911 and they were active in the Bloomsbury Group and Rupert Brooke’s Neo-Pagan group until they moved to the south of France.

Raverat was one of the very first wood engravers recognised as modern.  She went to the Slade School in 1908 and was influenced by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, developing her own painterly style of engraving.  Apart from her studies at the Slade and the period from 1915 to 1928, which covered her life with Jacques and early widowhood, Raverat lived in or near Cambridge.

Her life revolved around her contacts in Cambridge. One aspect was her work for the theatre, designing costumes, scenery and programmes. Her second cousin, Ralph Vaughan Williams, wrote the music to the work which became known as Job, a masque for dancing, the premiere of which took place in Cambridge in 1931. The miniature stage set that she built as a model still exists, housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

When she was 62, Raverat started to write her classic childhood memoir Period Piece, which she illustrated with line drawings. It appeared in 1952 and has not been out of print since.