Paul Nash

In my Assignment Two feedback from my tutor, it was suggested that I look at various artists, one of these was Paul Nash.

As it happened, my local art gallery had an exhibition of Paul Nash’s work, so at the weekend I had a look around.

Paul Nash, 'Totes Meer (Dead Sea)' 1940-1

Totes Meer (Dead Sea) (Nash, 1940-1)

When I visit exhibitions I always try to look at the full range of art that is included.

I enjoyed the range of works on display at the Sainsbury Centre’s Paul Nash exhibition, and noted that there were some that I liked more than others. I also made notes of techniques I am also keen to try in my own landscape work. I have tried to keep within the sections of the exhibition, as detailed in the accompanying booklet (pictured).

We are making a new world

  • During this time, Nash served as a second-lieutenant, was injured, and then commissioned as an official war artist.
  • Some of the works featured here included The Menin Road (1919), and We Are Making a New World (1918).
  • We Are Making a New World was the centrepiece of his 2018 exhibition Void of War. 
  • Overall sense and feeling conveyed through the paintings was gloomy, desolate but hopeful.

Dreaming trees

  • There was an odd mix of drawings and paintings in these – I found some of the night landscapes interesting to look at, and thought it would be something I would like to try myself!
  • The works depicting night landscapes had a dreamlike quality, and looked almost supernatural.
  • Influenced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Blake.
  • His landscapes were based around the exploration of the area around his family home: Wood House Lane at Ivor Heath near Buckinghamshire.
  • Nash’s tree studies and night landscapes were shown at an exhibition in 1912 at London’s Carfax Gallery.

The Pyramids in the Sea (Nash, 1912)

Places

  • Some of my favourite sketches in this exhibition are those made with watercolours, ink and graphite, like the one pictured in the exhibition leaflet – Tench Pond in a Gale (1921-2)
  • Nash’s style changed during this period, and the landscapes became more surreal, an example being Rye Marshes, and lost some of the movement that was in his earlier works.
  • Night Tide: in a similar way to Rye Marshes had simplified the landscape, but had also retained the sense of movement by using pencil and lots of lines.
  • During this time, Nash was inspired to produce sequences of works of particular places that he found significant, such as Whiteleaf in Buckinghamshire, Dymchurch in Kent, and Iden in Sussex.
  • According to Nash in his biography, Outline, 1928 was the beginning of ‘a new vision and a new style’ (SCVA, 2017).
  • First saw Girogio de Chirico’s work in 1928 in London – was influential on Nash’s emerging style.

Tench Pond in a Gale, (Nash, 1921-2)

The life of an inanimate object

  • I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this section – I was surprised to see collages of ‘found objects’ from Nash’s walks on the marshes.
  • Wood fetish was interesting, made in 1934.
  • Thought that there was a lot of work that looked more like it was from a sketchbook than created with the intention of exhibiting.
  • Nash met Eileen Agar in 1935 when living in Dorset, and they worked together to explore “ideas of the found object and the creative possibilities of photography, collage and assemblage” (SCVA, 2017)

Room and book

  • This section was very much focussed on still life painting in an interior setting.
  • I thought there was a range in styles used for all of them, and it was very much as though the artist was trying to find his style and experimenting.
  • Nash’s work developed from a more naturalistic style to an “exploration of the intersection of geometric forms to create multiple perspectives” and he “began to explore cubist ideas of space and engage with abstraction and surrealism” (SCVA, 2017).
  • Several of his interior paintings were shown in an exhibition at Tooth’s Gallery in October 1931: Recent Developments in British Painting. 

Unit One

  • Group was formed for several artists working with both abstract and surrealist.
  • The group of artists, which was established in 1933 included: John Armstrong, John Bigge, Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Tristram Hillier, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Henry Wadsworth. It also included architects: Wells Coates and Colin Lucas.
  • A lot of the work made during this period were abstract or surrealist, with the only group exhibition taking place in 1934.
  • The group disbanded in 1935.

The international surrealist exhibition

  • Once again, a range of work, very different from his earlier works. This included paintings, photo-collages and ‘found objects’.
  • Nash was increasingly focussed on surrealism – was involved with the organisation of the International Surrealist Exhibition, at New Burlington Galleries in London in 1936. This included work by some of the leading international surrealist artists at the time such as André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Man Ray and Joan Miró.

Unseen landscapes

  • This work followed on from his involvement with the International Surrealist Exhibition and was when the artist produced some of his “most intensely surrealist landscapes in which reality and dream co-existed” (SCVA, 2017)
  • Nash had a new approach to landscapes, following some of his experimentation with found objects and photography.
  • Concept of “unseen landscapes” – in which “the artist made visible what had previously been overlooked, enabled him to draw on surrealist ideas to interpret the British landscape” (SCVA, 2017).

Aerial creatures

  • This body of work was created during his time as a war artist – he was appointed as an official war artist in 1940 by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.
  • He took numerous photographs during this time, and was particularly fascinated by the piles of crashed planes at the Cowley Dump near Oxford, and these were used as the basis for one of his larger surrealist paintings: Totes Meer (Dead Sea). 

Equinox

  • Nash’s work at this time looked more mystical and had a looser style to it.
  • Returned to landscape of Wittenham Clumps in 1942.
  • During this time, he “explored the mystic resonance of moments marking the changing seasons such as the spring equinox and the summer solstice, and the ancient rituals connected to them” (SCVA, 2017).
  • Used colour to communicate his emotional response to the landscape, and his “final paintings revisited ideas of the soul as a floating presence in the sky, now expressed through the imagery of airbourne flowers as precursors of death” (SCVA, 2017).

Images Referenced

Nash, P. (1940-1) Totes Meer (Dead Sea). [Oil on canvas]. Currently on display at Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Usually at London: Tate. Accessed online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/paul-nash/room-guide/room-nine (Accessed on 9 August 2017)

Nash, P. (1921-2) Tench Pond in a Gale. [Pen, pencil and watercolour, 22 3/4×15 1/2]. Currently on display at Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Usually at London: Tate. Accessed online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-tench-pond-in-a-gale-n03843 (Accessed on 9 August 2017)

Nash, P. (1912) The Pyramids in the Sea. [Ink and watercolour on paper]. Currently on display at Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. Usually at London: Tate. Accessed online at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nash-the-pyramids-in-the-sea-t01821 (Accessed on 9 August 2017)

References / Other Resources

Nash, P. (2017) Paul Nash. [Exhibition]. Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Laity, P. (2016) The Guardian, ‘From English woodlands to war: the pioneering paintings of Paul Nash’. At:  https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/oct/14/from-english-woodlands-to-war-pioneering-paintings-of-paul-nash (Accessed on 7 August 2017)

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