In fact, her work as a professional artist began as a wood engraver when she was nineteen in 1927 and three years before she married Eric. It was was praised in both 'The Times' and the 'New Statesman' and was followed by commissions from the Curwen Press, the Golden Cockerel Press, the Kynoch Press and the BBC. By the end of the 1920s she was considered to be a rising star in the world of wood engravers, but that side of her work appears to have gone into abeyance and after marriage she describes herself making chair covers and cushions. She did, however, work in painting partnership with Eric when they produced a mural which he had designed for the wall of a tea room of a hotel owned by Midland Railway in Morecambe.
She switched now her attention to producing pattern papers before, at the age of twenty-six she was pregnant with he first child in 1934 and in the next seven years of he life was taken up with raising her three children and her life was progressively blighted by the effects of her breast cancer. It was after the death of Eric in the War, in the last seven years of her life, in which she was married to Henry Swazy, that were marked by a final burst of creativity in which she had successfully turned to oil painting and making model houses set in box frames.
Except as the wife of Eric Ravilious, Tirzah was almost forgotten. She has no place, for instance, in Albert Garrett's 'British Wood Engraving of the 20th Century'. Patricia Jaffé's Women Engravers reproduces 'The Dog Show', but does not mention her in the text. Only Joanna Selborne in her ;British Wood-Engraved Book Illustration 1904-1940' describes the 8 prints completed by Tirzah for an unpublished Curwen Press calendar, to be titled 'Relations', as : 'Probably her finest wood engravings and among the most vivid portrayals of 1920s middle-class life by a contemporary practitioner'. After being neglected for eighty years, her work fully deserves the recognition that Eric's has now received.
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Tirzah was born in the spring of 1908 in Gillingham Kent, the third child of Ella and Frederick. The family lived in neighbouring Chatham, where her father, who was an Army captain in the Royal Engineers, was temporarily based. She acquired the nickname 'Tirzah' a year later, when her grandmother wrote enquiring after 'Little Tirtia', a reference to 'Tirzah', one of the five daughters of Zelopherad, a Hebrew name which appears in the Torah, meaning 'she is my delight'. Tirzah said that she was pleased when her mother reading to her from 'The Song of Solomon' said : 'Thou art beautiful, O my love as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners'.
She remained in the Medway Towns until she was six years old and in 1914, the family, now comprising six children, moved to Glasgow, where her father, now 'Colonel Garwood, was based with the Engineers. Hers was a favoured, upper middle-class childhood, bathed in Edwardian affluence. There was money on both sides of the family, with her mother, the daughter of John Corry who ran the London branch of the prosperous, Belfast-based, 'Star Line' which ran sailing ships to India and Australia. As a result, the children were supervised by the lived-in governess and tended to by the lived-in nurse.
With the outbreak of the First World War her father was ordered to join the 7th Division at its camp at Lyndhurst in Hampshire and the children were transported to Uncle Herbert's farmhouse on the outskirts of South Croydon. Tirzah revealed her sensitivity to her surroundings as a child when she reflected that : 'The thing that I chiefly associate with these early Croydon days was the change of smell. The oak trees and bracken on Shirley Common had a very strong smell and occasionally the horse trough at the corner of the road used to smell more foully than I can remember anything ever since. The Common land was shingle and we often found fossils there. The trees were not tall and were in consequence very good for climbing'.
She now attended Croham School and said : 'It was a Quaker school and it was lovely from my point of view because we were encouraged as much as we liked and any homework or essay could be illustrated. I still remember the pleasure I got painting Absalom in a royal purple cloak ; the royal purple was Mummy's idea'.
The Garwood children in 1915 from left to right : John, Tirzah, Betty, Margaret and Billy. Of the children only one, John, the eldest and only son, was expected to have a profession and Tirzah, as one of the four girls, her parents considered her only ambition to be - to make a 'good' marriage.
As a result, the family moved yet again this time to 'Elmwood', a large house on the salubrious Arundel Road in Eastbourne, East Sussex. She wasn't there for long because when her mother decided to join Tirzah's father in India, she went with her two younger sisters to stay with aunts in Kensington in London. While there, visited the Natural History Museum in South Kensington and said : 'This I loved doing and made drawings, always being grateful that I was unobserved while doing them. I didn't like being watched'.
When her mother returned from India and then returned again, Tirzah, at the age of twelve became a boarder at West Hill School in Eastbourne. She reflected that the girls there : 'Were middle class and their politics, like those of their parents were conservative and had I known at the time that I was going to marry a 'muny boy', as we called them, I should have been the most awfully upset'. Despite the fact that, as he said she was : 'Better than other girls at drawing, tolerably good at mathematics, very bad to languages and hated French and Latin', she rose to become Head Girl at the school.
As a teenager she said : 'I fell in loves with a film star called Richard Barthelmas and with another girl wrote to him a fan letter, to which he replied with a photograph of himself. He was wearing an overcoat with a fur collar which, had he been an Englishman, I should have condemned as being very common and even as an American, I didn't like it'.
In the 1923 her father returned from India with the rank of 'Lieutenant Colonel' and she said that, for the children, at first, he was : 'A stranger to us'. Now, a teenager and with her adult character emerging she said : 'My brother was still my favourite of the family. He taught me to ride his motor bicycle and later on, when I was old enough to have a licence, to drive a car. I remember how proud I felt when he said : "For a girl, you're really very efficient". I preferred the 'Boy's Own' comic to the 'Girl's' and hadn't much interest in pretty clothes or jewelry'.
She recorded that she made friends with him on one of his sketching parties, mostly of female students, where they enjoyed themselves, but did very little work. She recorded : 'We lay back to back with one another on the Downs in our bathing suits and were photographed in this position by another student while we were dozing'. She omitted to include herself when she said that : 'One or two girls were badly in love'. As part of their friendship she said that she : 'Commiserated with him on the trials and embarrassment of having to teach'. The key point in her development as an artist was that : 'He liked the drawings and engravings of people that I made which he loved. He liked my work because it was personal and didn't imitate his own'.