Ratcliffe was a painter, printmaker and designer. He studied at Manchester School of Art and then spent almost 20 years designing wallpaper. Met the painter Harold Gilman in 1908, who persuaded Ratcliffe to paint and he became a member of the Camden Town Group just before World War I. From the early 1920s Ratcliffe concentrated on watercolours and wood engravings. Although he exhibited at the Carfax Gallery, NEAC, Goupil Gallery and in America, Ratcliffe had to wait for his first one-man show until 1946, at Roland, Browse and Delbanco.