The Menin Road 1918-1919
This was the best picture I could get taken from my guide book. This was prominently displayed in the exhibition being one of his best known WW1 paintings. A very big painting and naturally surrounded by people, so no chance I could photograph the real thing, and nor should I.
This painting was commissioned by the Ministry of Information, and was destined for inclusion in a Hall of Remembrance, which was never built. Today it is part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection
His style is starting to alter. He has become fascinated by geometric shapes, which will take him down the road to cubism and abstraction
However, to start at the beginning, we drove into London yesterday in the driving rain. Fortunately you can still park just outside the Tate which was useful considering the weather
The first section dealt with his early work and his comparatively comfortable existence in Iver Heath, where he paints in the garden and starts to show his predilection for landscape, which was to govern his painting throughout his life.
WW1 transformed him and his painting. He described himself as a messenger bringing back word from the men fighting to those who wanted the war to continue. This time a ravaged landscape witnessing a violent emotional experience. The Menin Road which I have shown is the best example of this in my opinion
After the war, places took on an importance for him. He lived at one time in Dymchurch on the Sussex coast, where he painted the sea defences again demonstrating his interest in geometric shapes and becoming ever more cubist. He was also influenced by de Chirico, after visiting an exhibition in 1928, and his paintings started to show lonely places and tell mysterious narratives through isolated objects.
He also at this time became interested in interiors and in still life. These paintings again showed him exploring cubist ideas, with their dependence on geometric shapes. A painting called “Dead Spring” painted in 1929 best illustrates this and I am sorry that I don’t have a copy of this one
He went on to explore the life of the inanimate object, conveying on them human personages. Working closely with fellow artist Eileen Agar, on the Dorset coast, they both used found objects in their work, both in paintings and in collage.
He became closely involved with Surrealists, and produced work like “Landscape from a Dream” which I can show
Some of this was cropped to get it into the frame, but here on the Dorset coast, the hawk is looking at itself in the mirror and also watching itself flying
Then came WW2, and Nash was made an official war artist. He was equally terrified of and fascinated by bombers.He talked about the “sky was upon us all like a huge hawk hovering, threatening”. He was inspired by the imagery of crashed German bombers in the landscape, like sculpture, and also at the Cowley Dump where these parts were brought. He drew upon his surrealist ideas when he painted Totes Meer or Dead Sea, where the twisted mass of crashed planes metamorphosed into waves of a metal sea.
This painting I can show and it is probably the one we all think of,when we think of Paul Nash
By now his health is suffering. He returns to landscape painting. In 1946 he succumbs to pneumonia and heart strain, and can no longer stand at his easel. Severely depressed he dies at Boscombe near Bournemouth at the age of 57. He is buried at Langley Marsh