Poor lambkin

Edward Bawden illustration of countryside for Good Food book

Mid-April and the weather is still making its mind up. This time of year feels quintessentially English to me. The colours, light and skies always send me to the work of the English artists Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. I waver between which of them I like best. Ravilious is the aesthete, measured and sure of line. Bawden is less delicate, more bucolic.

This image is a chapter header for April from the book Good Food by Ambrose Heath, decorated by Edward Bawden, published by Faber & Faber in 1932. Bawden was at his best in the 1930s and his collaborations with Heath on a series of cookery books are classics.

Bawden’s illustrations suit April; they are blustery, budding, humorous and full of vigour. But although this illustration is suitably idyllic, the carnivorous text soon dispels any comfortable feeling:

‘We are still on the threshold of Spring. The jolly lambkin, whose younger brothers leapt so artlessly to our table in March, now gambols a hint more sedately, but his flesh is nearly as delicious. Grass will give him a new flavour, and nowhere in the world is better grass lamb to be found than in England.’

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