Paul Nash 1889-1946

Provenance

Leicester Galleries, London

Mrs Charles Grey, 1927
Private Collection
Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
Crane Kalman Gallery, London

Private Collection

Private Collection, by descent

Exhibitions

1927, London, Leicester Galleries, Second Exhibition of the London Artist's Association, Nov. 1927, cat. no. 13
1943, Leeds, Temple Newsam House, Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings by Paul Nash and Barbara Hepworth, 24 April - 13 June 1943, cat. no. 8
1949, Canada, Arts Council Touring Exhibition, Paul Nash, 1889-1946, 1949, cat. no. 4

Literature

Herbert Read, Paul Nash, 1944, Penguin Books, pl. 11 (col. illus.)
Margot Eates, Paul Nash: The Master of the Image 1889-1946, 1973, John Murray, pp. 39 and 120
Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, 1980, Clarendon Press, cat. no. 566, p. 399, pl. 162 (illus.)
James King, Interior Landscapes: A Life of Paul Nash, 1987, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, p. 122

Paul Nash (1889-1946) was born in London, and spent much of his childhood in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, before studying at the Slade School of Art. He served in the Artists' Rifles during World War I until he was invalided home following a fall, and returned tothe front as an Official War Artist. He was a member of the London Group from 1914, co-founded Unit One with Ben Nicholson in 1933 and was a founder of the Modern English Watercolour Society. From the early 1930s he was a leading proponent of British Surrealism and organised the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936, and during World War II he worked again as an Official War Artist. He died in 1946 in Boscombe, Hampshire, succumbing to the severe asthma that afflicted him for most of his adult life.

In 1924, Nash had his first solo exhibition since 1919 at the Leicester Galleries in London. The exhibition proved a success and Nash used his earnings to travel to Europe, stopping in Paris, Cros des Cagnes, and Italy. The mid-1920s were a period of intense evolution in Nash’s career. A multitude of influences combined to precipitate some years of experimentation and rapid artistic development. Perhaps inspired by the 1927 exhibition at the Leicester Galleries of Van Gogh's flower paintings, Nash produced a series of flower still-lifes in oil between 1926 and 1929 including Dahlias; Still Life with Bog Cotton (1926, Leeds Art Gallery); St Pancras (1927, The Wilson, Cheltenham); and Autumn Crocuses (1928).

Five copiously blooming red dahlias sit in a vase on a round wooden table. It is a kitchen table, and the black range, copper chimney hood and patterned white tiles are also apparent in the background. Dahlias occupies a significant position in Nash’s oeuvre, belonging to a brief phase when he was using lustrous, thick paint surfaces. Whilst still possessing the chalky quality characteristic of his oil works, Dahlias is composed from long, thick strokes of paint.

Executed in 1927, Dahlias is closely related to other still-life work by modernist artists of the period. Christopher Wood was also a member of the Seven and Five Society (later the 7 & 5), one of the avant-garde groups which Nash exhibited with, and there is an arresting similarity between the loose handling and the vivid colouring of the two works. Writing to his friend Percy WIthers at the end of 1927, Nash commented, "I'm glad you like the Dahlias - some of the new oils are at the beginning of a development I hope." Dahlias signals the start of a period of experimentation and evolution, a work of painterly beauty which at once hints to the emergence of Nash’s later surrealist work.