Paul Nash 1889-1946

Provenance

Margaret Nash 

Leicester Galleries, 1956

Private Collection

Private Collection, UK

Exhibitions

2014, London, Piano Nobile, Paul Nash: Watercolours 1910-1946: Another Life, Another World, 9 Oct. - 22 Nov. 2014, cat. no. 23
2016, London, Tate Gallery, Paul Nash, 26 Oct. 2016 – 5 March 2017, cat. no. 55

Literature

Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, 1980, Clarendon Press, cat. no. 803, p. 428
David Boyd Haycock, Paul Nash: Watercolours 1910-1946: Another Life, Another World, 2014, Piano Nobile Publications, cat. no. 23, pp. 58-59 (col. illus.)
Emma Chambers, ed., Paul Nash, 2016, Tate Publishing, cat. no. 77, p. 128 (col. illus.)
Through the 1930s, Nash’s landscapes became increasingly surreal in their conception, though he had long had an interest in what he felt existed within, or beyond, certain special places. In his essay ‘Unseen Landscapes’, published in Country Life in 1938, he wrote of landscapes that are unseen not because they are invisible or part of the unconscious, but that are unseen

…merely because they are not perceived… To discover, for instance, the landscape of bleached objects is to open up endless possibilities of fresh adventure… But, you may protest, who in the world wants to bother their sight or understanding about a bleached object? That, however, is an entirely different matter. All these things under consideration here – stones, bones, empty fields, demolished houses and back gardens – all these have their trivial feature, as it were, their blind side; but, also, they have another character, and this is neither moral nor sentimental nor literary, but rather something strange and – for want of a better word, which may not exist – poetical.

Nash’s vision had always been deeply personal, but the works from this period became increasingly elusive as he became immersed in surrealism, and as he pursued a passionate love affair with the painter Eileen Agar.

Nash’s brief essay ‘The Monster Field’, written in the 1930s, explores his discovery of strange objects in the landscape. His ‘monsters’ are, in fact, fallen trees. ‘We are not studying two fallen trees that look like animals,’ he wrote,

But two monster objects outside the plane of natural phenomena. What reference they have to life should not be considered in relation to their past – therein they are dead – they now excite our interest on another plane, they have ‘passed on’ as people say. These now inanimate natural objects are alive in quite another way; but, instead of being invisible like so many of that huge community, or only made visible by that complicated machinery of spiritualism, they are so much with us that I was able to photograph them in full sunlight. Not that I made this record in any spirit of scientific research. Both as a painter and a collector of objects, it was impossible for me to ignore the occupants of Monster Field. I had taken a series of snapshots to supplement the water-colour drawings I was now making.

These objects are somehow alive. One reminds him of something seen in a Picasso, ‘the cow of Guernica’s bull. It seemed as mystical and as dire.’ In the twilight, the monster field becomes a river. ‘I drew on my overcoat and slung my camera and field glasses over my shoulder; with my companion carrying the book of sketches, we waded out into the green tide.’