Homage to iconic lost mural painted by modern artist

Ravilious mural. Credit: RIBA.
Ravilious mural. Credit: RIBA.

A striking new mural has been painted in Morecambe’s iconic art deco Midland Hotel.

The painting, by artist Jonquil Cook, is a homage to the Midland’s lost mural, by the acclaimed artist Eric Ravilious.

Ravilious, assisted by his wife Tirzah, painted a mural on the circular wall of the hotel’s Rotunda Bar in the summer of 1933, just before The Midland first opened to the public.

Unfortunately, due to lack of time, the painting was started before the plaster on the wall had dried properly, and within a couple of years the mural was peeling so badly that it had to be completely painted over.

The new mural, by artist Jonquil Cook, was commissioned as part of The Midland’s 80th anniversary celebrations.

Ms Cook’s painting was entirely inspired by the Ravilious mural and uses much of the original architectural designs in the composition. Like the earlier mural, it is split into day and night scenes, featuring sky, sea and land, with art deco structures in the foreground.


However, there are also some very modern touches such as the tiny wind turbines which are just visible on the horizon.

The colours used in the new mural are predominantly shades of blue, grey white and yellow.

There are no colour photographs of the original Ravilious mural, so Ms Cook chose her colour scheme by studying watercolour drawings that Ravilious prepared before he started work on the project.

Jonquil Cook, who was assisted by Isa Clee-Cadman, said: “I am absolutely delighted we have completed the mural.

“It was really hard work, and involved a lot of careful planning but everything went well and I am really pleased with the result.

“I am a huge admirer of Ravilious’ work and I always thought it was a great shame his wonderful mural didn’t survive, so I hope we have created a fitting tribute to him

“I also felt very inspired by working in the Rotunda. The windows take up half of the circular wall, and view outside is spectacular.

“I wanted to bring that landscape right into the room.”

Ravilious was an acclaimed painter, designer, book illustrator, wood engraver and war artist who died in 1942.

The Ravilious mural was created over two months in the summer of 1933.

Ravilious had frequent teaching commitments in London, so much of the work was done by his wife Tirzah, and the couple painted surrounded by builders frantically trying to get the hotel ready for its grand opening.

The walls of the Rotunda Bar were so damp that Ravilious and Tirzah had to dry them with rags before starting to paint, so even as they were working, the couple realised that their completed mural would not survive for long.

The mural was reconstructed temporarily for an episode of the TV series Poirot, which was filmed at The Midland in 1989.

Both Jonquil, who is on the Board of English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues who run The Midland, and Isa Clee-Cadman are graphic artists who have previously worked on large outdoor murals, and the project is being supported by Ravilious’ daughter Anne Ullmann.

Matt Stanaway, the general manager of The Midland, said: “I think the new mural looks fantastic. I am amazed that Jonquil and Isa managed to complete it so quickly.

“The Midland has always been known for its wonderful architecture and art and the new mural only enhances the hotel. I’m sure our visitors will enjoy looking at this new artwork.

“In honour of the completion of the mural, the room it is in will now be known as the Ravilious Rotunda.”

The Midland is characterised by its great art and architecture. The hotel is adorned with sculptures created by Eric Gill. On the outside, above the main entrance, are his two seahorses, which became symbols of The Midland.

Inside, Gill carved a medallion into the ceiling above the spiral staircase, and behind the reception desk is his huge bas-relief entitled ‘Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicaa’.

Other Eric Gill features in The Midland include a carved map of the coastline of North West England, and a blue seahorse set into the floor of the reception area.

The Midland was commissioned in 1932 by The London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company and architect Oliver Hill was selected to create a building “of international quality in the modern style”.

Hill created a three-story curved building with the convex side facing the sea.

The exterior walls were faced with white rendering composed of cement and carborundum, electrically polished to produce a surface resembling marble that glittered in the sunlight.

Inside, the design was spacious, from the open spiral staircase with its cantilevered steps to the sparsely furnished entrance lounge.

Hill’s took complete control of colour schemes, furnishings, decoration and works of art, down to the detail of the door handles.

This holistic approach set The Midland apart from other hotels of the period and helped to ensure its status as an art deco masterpiece.

For more information about The Midland visit englishlakes.co.uk.