The theme of travel as expressed through ship and boat motifs on ceramics was very popular in early twentieth-century England. Eric William Ravilious was a prolific designer of this period whose work reflected this practice. Ravilious, who studied engraving, illustration, color printing, and mural painting, took over the legendary firm of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, at Etruria in Staffordshire, in the 1930s. His work for Wedgwood included designs for commemorative wares, and also incorporated patterns for dinner and tea ware, lemonade sets, and nursery ware.
The footed “Boat Race Day” bowl, designed in 1938, is a stylized depiction of a crew race along the banks of the River Thames. This was an annual competition between rowing crews from Oxford and Cambridge Universities that Ravilious enjoyed watching when he lived by the Thames in the early 1930s. There are three similar scenes in ovals on the exterior of this punch bowl, and on the inner wall, a mermaid in the water under a shining sun, framed on both sides by oars.