Ravilious studied at Eastbourne School of Art, and at the Royal College of Art, where he studied under Paul Nash.
He married Eileen Lucy "Tirzah" Garwood who was also a noted artist and engraver.
His early works depicted the countryside around him in the south east of England, as well as urban scenes of London. Many of his works are seen as capturing a sense of Englishness that existed between the wars.
He designed a number of popular pieces for Wedgwood between l936 and l940 including a commemorative mug originally produced for the Coronation of Edward VIII which was adapted for that of George V. Ravilious was an official war artist in World War II and received a commission as a Captain in the Royal Marines.
He was killed in 1942 at the age of 39 while accompanying a Royal Air Force air sea rescue mission off Iceland that failed to return to its base.
He is commemorated by blue plaques in Hammersmith and Eastbourne.