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Paul Nash at Tate Britain

The big retrospective exhibition of one of Britain's most distinctive artists, Paul Nash, is now at Tate Britain until 5th March, 2017. A pioneer of British Modernism, and best known as a war artist during the two world wars, this is the largest exhibition of Paul Nash’s work, covering his early drawings and watercolours through to his Second World War paintings and final landscapes. It aims to reveal Nash’s importance to British modern art in the most significant display of his work for a generation.

The big retrospective exhibition of one of Britain’s most distinctive artists, Paul Nash, is now at Tate Britain until 5th March, 2017.  A pioneer of British Modernism, and best known as a war artist during the two world wars, this is the largest exhibition of Paul Nash’s work, covering his early drawings and watercolours through to his Second World War paintings and final landscapes. It aims to reveal Nash’s importance to British modern art in the most significant display of his work for a generation.

ID_039 Paul Nash 1889–1946 Blue House on the Shore 1930-1 Oil on canvas Tate ©Tate
ID_039
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Blue House on the Shore
1930-1
Oil on canvas
Tate
©Tate

Born in London, Paul Nash spent his childhood in Buckinghamshire, where inspiration for his landscapes emerged from the time he spent exploring the Downs. He was fascinated by Britain’s ancient past, and equally inspired by the equinox and the phases of the moon, which he described as one of the ‘great luminaries’. It held a mystic significance for him with the rhythms of the lunar calendar and the different seasons. All these influences can be found in his work, which interprets his environment according to a unique, personal mythology, evolving throughout his career, creating intense moods through the use of formal juxtapositions and evocative colours.

ID_106 Paul Nash 1889–1946 Nocturnal Landscape 1938 Manchester Art Gallery ©Tate
ID_106
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Nocturnal Landscape
1938
Manchester Art Gallery
©Tate

Paul Nash died young, aged 57, in 1946, having lived through the difficult depression and war years. His premature death meant he missed out on the vigorous postwar public support for experimental art, which helped raise the profile of other leading figures of his generation in British art, such as Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore, to international recognition.

ID_130 Paul Nash 1889–1946 Battle of Germany 1944 Imperial War Museum, London ©Tate
ID_130
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Battle of Germany
1944
Imperial War Museum, London
©Tate

Amongst the works on display at Tate Britain, SEEN recommends that you immerse yourself in Paul Nash’s masterpiece, Totes Meer (German for ‘dead sea’), to comprehend the essence of the artist. As a British Government appointed official artist in both world wars, Nash had a broad experience of the horror of armed conflict. Totes Meer, in the collection of the Tate Gallery since 1946, is a moonlit landscape inspired by a Second War graveyard for both British and German wrecked aircraft at Cowley in Oxfordshire, (the base of the Morris car factory), partially converted into an aircraft workshop at the beginning of WW2. This deeply moving and symbolic work, which was made in 1941, soon after the Battle of Britain, is considered to be the most important British painting of the Second World War.

Totes Meer (Dead Sea) Paul Nash 1889–1946 Totes Meer (Dead Sea) 1940-41 Oil on canvas Support: 1016 x 1524 mm frame: 1170 x 1680 x 97 mm Tate. Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee, 1946
Totes Meer (Dead Sea)
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Totes Meer (Dead Sea)
1940-41
Oil on canvas
Support: 1016 x 1524 mm
frame: 1170 x 1680 x 97 mm
Tate. Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee, 1946

Other works on display are Spring in the Trenches, an ironic and bitter depiction of men preparing to kill each other, while the landscape begins to burst into life under a shining sun and a blue sky, painted in 1918. The Shore, inspired by Dymchurch, Kent (where Nash moved with his wife in 1921), portrays the endless struggle between Man and Nature, a struggle that neither are destined to win. Blue House on the Shore, from 1930-31 is a dream-like landscape where Magritte and De Chirico’s influence can be seen.

ID_022 Paul Nash 1889–1946 Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood, 1917 1918 Imperial War Museum, London ©Tate
ID_022
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood, 1917
1918
Imperial War Museum, London
©Tate
ID_29 Paul Nash 1889–1946 The Shore 1923 Oil on canvas Leeds Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images ©Tate
ID_29
Paul Nash 1889–1946
The Shore
1923
Oil on canvas
Leeds Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images
©Tate

Rye Marshes is a visually attractive artwork in ochre, blue and orange, commissioned in 1932 by Jack Beddington, the publicity director for Shell. It was used by Shell in their advertising, incorporating the words ‘Everywhere you Go / You can be sure of Shell’ above and below the image. Equivalents for the Megaliths, painted in 1935, expresses the artist’s main interests for more than a decade: the English landscape, death and the afterlife, and Surrealism.

ID_27 Paul Nash 1889–1946 The Rye Marshes 1932 Ferens Art Gallery ©Tate
ID_27
Paul Nash 1889–1946
The Rye Marshes
1932
Ferens Art Gallery
©Tate
nash_megaliths Paul Nash 1889–1946 Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935 Oil on canvas support: 457 x 660 mm frame: 627 x 835 x 80 mm ©Tate
nash_megaliths
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Equivalents for the Megaliths
1935
Oil on canvas
support: 457 x 660 mm frame: 627 x 835 x 80 mm
©Tate

Landscape from a Dream (1936-38) marks the culmination of Nash’s personal response to Surrealism, one of his main influences since the late 1920s. As the title suggests, it echoes the Surrealists’ fascination with Freud’s theories of the power of dreams to reveal the unconscious.

ID_111 Paul Nash 1889–1946 Landscape from a Dream 1936-8 Tate ©Tate
ID_111
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Landscape from a Dream
1936-8
Tate
©Tate

If you miss the opportunity to see the exhibition in London, you can still visit it at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (7th April – 20th Aug 2017), and at Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (9th September 2017- end of January 2018).

www.tate.org.uk

Paul Nash
26th October 2016 – 5th March 2017
Tate Britain 

Millbank,
London SW1P 4RG

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