Paul Nash 1889-1946


With Redfern Gallery, by 1931
Private Collection, prior to 1985
Private Collection, UK


Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, 1980, Clarendon Press, p. 414
In February 1930, the Nashes travelled to France again, this time in the company of Edward Burra. In Paris, they met a number of artists who had been or were associated with the Surrealist movement, among them Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Max Ernst and Jean Arp. ‘Paul, for the first time,’ wrote Margaret, ‘became really interested in an aspect of Surrealist painting, namely, the release of the dream.’ From Paris they went on to Toulon, on the French Riviera, staying at the Hotel du Port. Their room, with its view over the harbour and in the distance the French Mediterranean fleet, fascinated Nash and it inspired a number of works, some of which would be among his earliest, proto-Surrealist works. Indeed, The Fleet at Toulon No. 1 is one of his first concerted endeavours to explore the possibilities of surrealist juxtaposition, and as such it is an important transitional work in the development of his artistic project between the two world wars.

The developing influence of surrealism is also found in another painting inspired by his hotel room at Toulon, and the ships seen through the window. Margaret Nash described Harbour and Room as ‘a very beautiful picture, depicting a French Man o’ War sailing into our bedroom; the idea resulting from the reflection of one of the ships in the very large mirror which hung in front of our bed.’ Painted first as a watercolor, the subsequent oil painting was exhibited at the first International Exhibition of Surrealism, which was held in London in the summer of 1936, and was bought by the British poet Edward James, who added it to his collection of surrealist works by Picasso, René Magritte, Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.