Paul Nash, the elder son of William Nash and his first wife, Caroline Jackson, was born in London on 11th May, 1889. His father was a successful lawyer who became the Recorder of Abingdon. According to Ronald Blythe: "In 1901 the family returned to its native Buckinghamshire, where the garden of Wood Lane House at Iver Heath, and the countryside of the Chiltern hills, with its sculptural beeches and chalky contours, were early influences on the development of the three children. Their lives were overshadowed by their mother's mental illness and Nash himself was greatly helped by his nurse who, with some elderly neighbours, introduced him to the universe of plants."
Nash was educated at St. Paul's School and the Slade School of Art, where he met Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, C. R. W. Nevinson, Edward Wadsworth, Dora Carrington, William Roberts and Claughton Pellew. Unlike some of his contemporaries at the Slade School, Nash remained untouched by the two post-impressionist exhibitions organized by Roger Fry in 1910 and 1912. Instead, he was influenced by the work of William Blake. He also became a close friend of Gordon Bottomley, who took a keen interest in his career.
Nash had his first one-man show, of ink and wash drawings, at the Carfax Gallery in 1912. The following year he shared an exhibition at the Dorien Leigh Gallery with his brother, John Nash. The art critic, Ronald Blythe, has argued: "Due to the enthusiasm of Michael Sadler and William Rothenstein, the exhibition, though modestly hung on the walls of a lampshade shop and announced by a home-made poster, was a success." Myfanwy Piper, has added: "Nash had a noteworthy sense of order and of the niceties of presentation; his pictures were beautifully framed, drawings mounted, his studio precisely and decoratively tidy, and oddments which he collected were worked up into compositions."
Paul Nash was strongly attracted to Dora Carrington: He later recalled: "Carrington... was the dominating personality, and when she cut her thick gold hair into a heavy golden bell, this, her fine blue eyes, her turned-in toes and other rather quaint but attractive attributes, combined to make her a conspicuous and popular figure... I had noticed her long before this was achieved, when as a bored sufferer in the Antique Class my attention had been suddenly fixed by the sight of this amusing person with such very blue eyes and such incredibly thick pigtails of red-gold hair. I got an introduction to her and eventually won her regard by lending her my braces for a fancy-dress party. We were on the top of a bus and she wanted them then and there."
On the outbreak Nash considered the possibility of joining the British Army. He told a friend: "I am not keen to rush off and be a soldier. The whole damnable war is too horrible of course and I am all against killing anybody, speaking off hand, but beside all that I believe both Jack and I might be more useful as ambulance and red cross men and to that end we are training. There may be emergencies later and I mean to get some drilling locally and learn to fire a gun but I don't see the necessity for a gentleminded creature like myself to be rushed into some stuffy brutal barracks to spend the next few months practically doing nothing but swagger about disguised as a soldier in case the Germans poor misguided fellows - should land."
(If you find this article useful, please feel free to share. You can follow John Simkin on Twitter, Google+ & Facebook or subscribe to our monthly newsletter)
Nash enlisted in the Artists' Rifles. He told Gordon Bottomley: "I have joined the Artists' London Regiment of Territorials the old Corps which started with Rossetti, Leighton and Millais as members in 1860. Every man must do his bit in this horrible business so I have given up painting. There are many nice creatures in my company and I enjoy the burst of exercise - marching, drilling all day in the open air about the pleasant parts of Regents Park and Hampstead Heath."
In March 1917 he was sent to the Western Front. Nash, who took part in the offensive at Ypres, had reached the rank of lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment by 1916. Whenever possible, Nash made sketches of life in the trenches. In May, 1917 he was invalided home after a non-military accident. While recuperating in London, Nash worked from his sketches to produce a series of war paintings. This work was well-received when exhibited later that year.
As a result of this exhibition, Charles Masterman, head of the government's War Propaganda Bureau (WPB), and the advice of Edward Marsh and William Rothenstein, it was decided to recruit Nash as a war artist. In November 1917 in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Passchendaele Nash returned to France. Nash's work during the war included The Menin Road, The Ypres Salient at Night, The Mule Track, A Howitzer Firing, Ruined Country and Spring in the Trenches.
Nash was unhappy with his work as a member of War Propaganda Bureau. He wrote at the time: "I am no longer an artist. I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls." However, as Myfanwy Piper has pointed out: "The drawings he made then, of shorn trees in ruined and flooded landscapes, were the works that made Nash's reputation. They were shown at the Leicester Galleries in 1918 together with his first efforts at oil painting, in which he was self-taught and quickly successful, though his drawings made in the field had more immediate public impact. From April of that year until early in 1919 Nash was engaged on paintings commissioned by the department of information for the newly established Imperial War Museum.... His poetic imagination, instead of being crushed by the terrible circumstances of war, had expanded to produce terrible images - terrible because of their combination of detached, almost abstract, appreciation and their truth to appearance."
In 1919 Nash moved to Dymchurch in Kent, beginning his well-known series of pictures of the sea, the breakwaters, and the long wall that prevents the sea from flooding Romney Marsh. This included Winter Sea and Dymchurch Steps. Nash also painted the landscapes of the Chiltern Hills. In 1924 and 1928 he had successful exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries.
Despite this popular acclaim in 1929 his work became more abstract. In 1933 Nash founded Unit One, the group of experimental painters, sculptors, and architects which included Herbert Read, Edward Wadsworth, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Edward Burra, Ben Nicholson and Wells Coates. Nash also contributed to the Architectural Review and Country Life and wrote the Shell Guide to Dorset (1936).
During the Second World War Nash was employed by the Ministry of Information and the Air Ministry and paintings produced by him during this period include the Battle of Britain and Totes Meer. His biographer, Myfanwy Piper, has argued: "This war disturbed Nash but did not change his art as the last one had. His style and his habits were formed, and in the new war he treated his new subjects as he had treated those he had been thinking about for so long. His late paintings, both oils and watercolours, are alternately brilliant and sombre in colour with the light of setting suns and rising moons spreading over wooded and hilly landscapes."
Paul Nash died at 35 Boscombe Spa Road, Bournemouth, on 11th July 1946.
I am not keen to rush off and be a soldier. There may be emergencies later and I mean to get some drilling locally and learn to fire a gun but I don't see the necessity for a gentleminded creature like myself to be rushed into some stuffy brutal barracks to spend the next few months practically doing nothing but swagger about disguised as a soldier in case the Germans poor misguided fellows - should land.
I have joined the Artists' London Regiment of Territorials the old Corps which started with Rossetti, Leighton and Millais as members in 1860. There are many nice creatures in my company and I enjoy the burst of exercise - marching, drilling all day in the open air about the pleasant parts of Regents Park and Hampstead Heath.
In the midst of the monstrous event stands Man; the thousands and the hundreds of thousands, the combatants and the non-combatants; who all have one wish and one goal; to cast aside the war; to render its effect invisible so far as they can be understood; to let a well-earned Peace grow its grass over the victims and to carry on as before.
Orchestral jazz composer and guitarist Paul Nash was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1948. The son of a classical pianist, he earned his first fleeting taste of musical success in 1966 when one of his many teenage rock bands appeared between a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix and headliner the Blues Project at the legendary Greenwich Village nightclub Café Wha? After graduating from the Berklee College of Music in 1972, Nash relocated to San Francisco, earning his master's degree in composition from Mills College four years later he then founded the ten-piece Paul Nash Ensemble, which included trumpeter Mark Isham and drummer Eddie Marshall. In 1979 he issued his debut recording, A Jazz Composer's Ensemble. Second Impression followed in 1985, with Night Language appearing in 1987. That same year, Nash was also a central figure in the creation of the Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra, a collective that featured a string quartet in its performances of new works by contemporary composers. The BAJCO experience continued shaping Nash's music upon his return to New York in 1990 -- with the formation of the Manhattan New Music Project, an ensemble boasting as many as 16 members dedicated to premiering works by composers including Neal Kirkwood, Bruce Williamson, and others. The MNMP produced two LPs: 1993's Mood Swing and 2000's Soul of Grace. Around 1997 Nash began experimenting with site-specific compositions. The most successful, "Still Sounds Run Deep," requires musicians to arrange themselves around large public areas, performing in harmony with ambient sounds while maintaining connections to the original score and their fellow players via stopwatches and written instructions. Nash died in Manhattan on January 27, 2005, of complications from a brain tumor he was 56 years old.
Paul Nash: Landscapes of War
War is a very intense experience. For poets, war inspires a torrent of words tumbling out in anguish, for novelists, fiction provides a thin veil though which they can filter their fears and terrors. For artists the war is terrifying and fascinating–not in its glory,for there is none of that—but in its totality. War swallows everything: wipes away the life before and diminishes the life afterward. The English artists who spent years painting the Great War presented a portrait in smoke gray and mud brown of a land slashed open and scarred with Futurist lines of force. In contemporary films on the War, these colors, that bleakness, the blanched nature of a blasted world is conjured up, inspired by those canvases. No matter who the artist, Christopher Nevinson or the Nash brothers, no matter what the style, even John Singer Sargent, of a completely different generation, painted in dun: all colors are acid and dead, crushed under the weight of constant bombardment. Somehow, the Slade School of Art, presided over by a retrograde group of unenlightened artists, somehow produced a generation that created a modern language for a modern art. Few of that generation of war artists ever found peace and few were ever able to recapture the creativity inspired by carnage.
The war artist Paul Nash lived under the shadow of death is entire life. The artist grew up in difficult circumstances, marred by the depression of his mother which made a normal childhood impossible. From the distance of time, it is hard to diagnose her illness, but clinical depression seems likely, given that her son suffered from the same disease. His father, a barrister, moved the family to the country, in the vain hope that the isolation would be helpful to the health of his wife. As a child, Nash wandered though the woods and over the hills of Buckinghamshire, a beautiful and bucolic stretch of English landscape, beloved by the Romantic poets. But he explored, not as an artist, but as a child escaping a dark atmosphere. Indeed, Nash spent much of his childhood struggling with asthma, which, in the early twentieth century, could be fatal. For a child, not being able to breathe would be terrifying. The constant fight for breath must have taken up a great deal of psychic energy, for he arrived at adulthood without a vocation and fell into the notion of being an artist almost at random.
When after a few years of commercial training as a book illustrator, Nash, who would never train as a painter, arrived at Slade School of Art, or “The Slade,” as it was called, and fell in love, as did all the young men, with Dora Carrington. Part of the rite of passage at Slade, aside from loving Carrington, was the indomitable Henry Tonks, a formidable teacher and severe critic of all things modern, from affront of Post-Impressionism to the horrors of Cubism and Futurism. Tonks had little regard for Nash, who had great difficulty in drawing in the Renaissance manner, the only way to draw, of course. The fact that Nash admired the pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti, did little to mollify his strict teacher. From the very start, Nash was a landscape artist and was never a figurative painter in the classical tradition, but he managed to develop his own somewhat stiff and original style. Before the war, he and his younger brother John managed to carve out reputations for themselves, existing somewhat uneasily among what the critic Roger Fry called les jenues or the equivalent of the Young British Artists of the twenty-first century. Then, as David Boyd Haycock pointed out in A Crisis of Brilliance. Five Young British Artists and the Great War, the War broke out, presenting each of the Slade group with a choice: to join or not to join?
The Great War disrupted artistic careers throughout Europe, decisively ending the pre-war avant-garde, scattering the international schools of modern art. Young British men were not conscripted until 1916, after over a year of terrible slaughter. Despite the problems with fragile health, which would plague him for the rest of his life, when the Great War came, Paul Nash joined up and became part of the London regiment of the home bound Artists’ Rifles. Like Stanley Spencer, Nash had commuted to London to attend classes, and like Spencer, he was wrenched from a England of the eighteenth century, pristine and unmarred by modernity. From the soft green hills of Buckinghamshire, topped by clumps of ancient gatherings of green trees, stretching along the edges of the Chiltern hills, Nash found himself in the region of northern France and southern Belgium. Once similar to Buckinghamshire in its verdant greenness, the border region butting up against Belgium and Germany, was the unlikely fault line of the Great War, sliced from the North Sea to Switzerland with lines of trenches. The rows of soldiers, separated by No Man’s Land, faced each other with the same precision as the lines of marchers in a Napoleonic war.
As his brother John Nash observed in his famous painting Over the Top, the generals in their wisdom ordered the men to march forward as if the military technology had not changed. But guns now fired smokeless powder, eliminating the centuries old cover of the cloud of smoke, guns were now repeating rifles, capable of firing some fifteen rounds per clip, and, behind the protective lines of the trenches lay the machine guns which rattled out a hail of bullets that could kill en masse without the gunners even having to aim. Transferring out of the Artists’ Rifles so that he could serve on the front lines, Nash arrived at the Ypres Salient, or front line bulge towards the German trenches in 1917. This was a territory that would be pounded by three battles, the First, Second, and Third Battles of Ypres, or, as the last battle was called, “Passchendaele.” An officer, with the lives of men under his command, Paul Nash, a man of the countryside, noticed the scars of war on the surrounding terrain. Writing to his wife, Margaret, he described what was a process of gradual destruction: “Everywhere are old farms, rambling and untidy, some of course ruined and deserted, all have red or yellow or green roofs and on a sunny day they look fine. The willows are orange, the poplars carmine with buds, the streams gleam brightest blue and flights of pigeons go wheeling about the field. Mixed up with all this normal beauty of nature you see the strange beauty of war. Trudging along the road you become gradually aware of a humming in the air, a sound rising and falling in the wind.”
An eloquent observer of the landscape as carcass, Nash viewed the mangled land with the horrified and empathetic eyes of a nature lover: “I have seen the most frightful nightmare of a country more conceived by Dante or Poe than by nature, unspeakable, utterly indescribable. In the fifteen drawings I have made I may give you some idea of its horror, but only being in it and of it can ever make you sensible of its dreadful nature and of what our men in France have to face. We all have a vague notion of the terrors of a battle, and can conjure up with the aid of some of the more inspired war correspondents and the pictures in the Daily Mirror some vision of battlefield but no pen or drawing can convey this country – the normal setting of the battles taking place, day and night, month after month. Evil and the incarnate fiend alone can be master of this war, no glimmer of God’s hand is seen anywhere. Sunset and sunrise are blasphemous, they are mockeries to man, only the black rain out of the bruised and swollen clouds all through the bitter black of night is fit atmosphere in such a land. The rain drives on, the stinking mud becomes more evilly yellow, the shell holes fill up with green-white water, the roads and tracks are covered in inches of slime, the black dying trees ooze and sweat and the shells never cease. They alone plunge overhead, tearing away the rotting tree stumps, breaking the plank roads, striking down horses and mules, annihilating, maiming, maddening, they plunge into the grave that is this land one huge grave, and cast up on it the poor dead. It is unspeakable, godless, hopeless. I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”
Paul Nash. After the Battle (1918)
In a 2014 program for BBC, Andrew Graham-Dixon visited the trenches at Ypres, retracing the steps of Nash through the zig-zag clefts in the ground, lined with corrugated metal. Graham-Dixon explained the mindset of Nash, who arrived with his childhood love of the tradition of the absurd in English literature. In showing how men “lived in holes,” Graham-Dixon stressed the surreal strangeness of this strange subterranean existence. It is no coincidence that The Hobbit and Middle Earth emerged as literature under the pen of J. R. R. Tolkien. In 2014, shortly after the BBC broadcast on Nash, an interesting book by Joseph Laconte discussed the emergence of a new kind of English literature after the War. A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War. How J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918 was described as “For a generation of men and women, it brought the end of innocence—and the end of faith. Yet for J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the Great War deepened their spiritual quest. Both men served as soldiers on the Western Front, survived the trenches, and used the experience of that conflict to ignite their Christian imagination. Had there been no Great War, there would have been noHobbit, no Lord of the Rings, no Narnia, and perhaps no conversion to Christianity by C. S. Lewis.”
Paul Nash. Ruined Country (1917)
But for Nash, there were no redeeming spiritual features in the savage landscape that looked like the dark side of the Moon or this “Half-Buried World,” with its “Strange Metal Scars,” described by Graham-Dixon. The moonscape of Ypres was in stark contrast to Nash’s “English paradise” where he and his bother and sister grew up. Instead of hawks swooping through the woods near his childhood home, airplanes darted up and down the lines, photographing the trenches. Instead of the old moss-covered trees with their ancient reaching roots, there were only brittle surviving splinters pitching upwards from the ground. Vines and foliage were replaced with nests of twisted barbed wire. The only light was that reflected off the standing pools of water in the bomb craters, which floated on the larger sea of mud. Nash drew everything he saw and, absorbed in his work, fell in the trench and broke his rib. Little did he know that his service at Ypres was during a rare lull between battles, for while he was invalided home, his regiment was ordered into action, attacking the infamous Hill 60. Few returned.
When Nash returned to these killing fields, it was an official War Artist, who has ceased to be an artist and who has become a messenger, determined to burn the public with the truth of war. “I realise no one in England knows what the scene of the war is like,” he wrote, “They cannot imagine the daily and nightly background of the fighter.” Towards the end of the war in May of 1918, Nash held an exhibition of his drawing of the war, dark and scratched and tight with anxiety and trauma, along with his first paintings. The title of the exhibition was The Void of War, a subversive phrase, rattling the censorious government, nervous about telling the truth in what was seeming like a never-ending war. Even more biting was the painting, We are Making a New World (1918), a landscape of acid green roiling mounds composed by endless shelling. Black trees rise up and lean in bewilderment, etched out against a background of sienna hills over with climbs a baleful white sun with piercing rays. This, then is the new landscape, made by explosives.
Paul Nash. We Are Making a New World (1918)
Nash’s best known painting was the huge history painting, stretching out six feet, The Menin Road. This was a commissioned painting, a project of the Ministry of Education, that was supposed to show the heroism and perhaps the glory of the war that was supposedly won. These two monumental and unsettling paintings show is a change in style for Paul Nash. According to Haycock, Nash came to terms with the Futuristic style of Christopher Nevinson, realizing that only a modern style could explain a modern war. Nash abandoned the careful crosshatching and the attention to detail in favor of a broad handling of unfamiliar oil paint, the color of mud and stagnate water. Once again, the huge painting confronts the viewer with emptiness, devoid of redeeming features, asking abruptly if the loss was worth the gain.
Paul Nash. The Menin Road (1918)
Like most of the landscape in this Flanders region, any of the previous villages and their roads had been obliterated. The title must be read as ironic, for the road is gone, but this painting marks the site of the Battle of Menin Road, part of the Third Battle of Ypres, the battle where his regiment was lost. In his own way, Nash was memorializing the deaths of the men he had once led. Like the Road, they no longer exist. Its Flemish road is Meenseweg or the Road to Menen, known to history by its French name, Menin. The Road, the main road out of Ypres, a way out of the Hell that was this battlefield, was one of the most shelled sites of the Great War. Nearby was the sadly named Sanctuary Wood and the great Hooge Crater, one of the enormous sinkholes characteristic of this war. Today the battlefield is overseen by the Menin Gate, engraved with the names of 54,389 officers and their men whose bodies were never recovered. For comparison, this number is only a few thousand short of the total deaths in the Viet Nam War.
Like many of his colleagues, Nash never really recovered from the Great War. His landscapes are impersonal, devoid of human presence and pathos. We see no dead or wounded, only the occasional soldier, navigating the pock marked ground. Depicting the causalities was a task he would leave to his strict teacher, Henry Tonks, who would be dragged into the twentieth century and forced to look it into its mutilated face. The pupil and teacher mirror each other, one showing the unprecedented landscapes, places that could have never existed without the intervention of a modern war the other painted faces that were destroyed in an entirely new way. After the War, Nash turned to Surrealism as if to somehow express his inability to come to terms with peace and his struggle to overcome depression. He lived just long enough to paint the devastation of yet another war, this time concentrating on the air war in what must have seen like acts of re-execution of death. Nash, as his tombstone tells it, died in his sleep from heart failure, in his own way, a casualty of war.
If you have found this material useful, please give credit to
Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed.
Great British Art: The Battle of Britain by Paul Nash
Missing proper British Food? Then order from the British Corner Shop – Thousands of Quality British Products – including Waitrose, Shipping Worldwide. Click to Shop now.
Paul Nash’s description of the painting, written for the War Artist’s Advisory Committee: ‘The painting is an attempt to give the sense of an aerial battle in operation over a wide area and thus summarizes England’s great aerial victory over Germany. The scene includes certain elements constant during the Battle of Britain – the river winding from the town and across parched country, down to the sea beyond, the shores of the Continent, above, the mounting cumulus concentrating at sunset after a hot brilliant day across the spaces of sky, trails of airplanes, smoke tracks of dead or damaged machines falling, floating clouds, parachutes, balloons. Against the approaching twilight new formations of Luftwaffe, threatening…’ The painting majestically reveals the possibilities of art engaged with history. Its ambition and the scale of the setting immediately impress we look down on a huge swathe of the English Channel and France beyond.
Produced at the time of the battle, the painting encapsulates its scale and importance. However, this is not just an image of modern warfare, with its violence and destruction, or even an iconic victory it is also a restatement of the value of art and the defeat of Nazism. Nash, a fierce critic of the way that fighting on the Western Front of the First World War had been conducted, was immediate and steadfast in his revulsion towards Nazi Germany and its culture. In the painting, defenses rise up as if out of the very landscape of England to meet the fascistic machines of war the regimented patterns of the Luftwaffe are broken and defeated by Allied fighter planes, they form great flower-like shapes in the sky, before plummeting into the very earth that has defeated them. Richard Seddon, pupil of Nash, viewed this work at Nash’s Oxford studio. He advised Nash to include more black smoke trails and painted an example on the canvas. When the painting was exhibited in London, Seddon’s black trail was still visible on the canvas. Margaret Nash presented Seddon with a 19th-century lithograph of a storm in Paris which Nash adapted to form the composition of the Battle of Britain. Nash delivered the work to the Committee in October and it went on display at the National Gallery in January 1942.
The painting is an attempt to give the sense of an aerial battle in operation over a wide area and thus summarizes England’s great aerial victory over Germany. The scene includes certain elements constant during the Battle of Britain – the river winding from the town and across parched country, down to the sea beyond, the shores of the Continent, above, the mounting cumulus concentrating at sunset after a hot brilliant day across the spaces of sky, trails of airplanes, smoke tracks of dead or damaged machines falling, floating clouds, parachutes, balloons. Against the approaching twilight new formations of Luftwaffe, threatening.
Paul Nash was one of Britain’s best-known artists at the time of the Second World War. As a former official war artist he was a logical choice to fulfill the role again, particularly as a patriot who believed in utilizing fine art for propaganda. Battle of Britain demonstrates this aspect of Nash’s outlook. It presents an epitome of RAF Fighter Command’s successful struggle against the Luftwaffe in 1940. RAF fighters sweep along the English Channel to break up advancing Luftwaffe formations in a summer sky filled with vapor trails, parachutes, balloons and cloud. The painting is an imaginative summary of the event rather than a literal one Nash favors symbolism and allegory over factual accuracy. The barrage balloons and aircraft seen from above are not in proportion to the shadowy suggestions of vulnerable cities below. Geographically the painting suggests the Thames estuary, with the Channel and France beyond, but again the emphasis is on imaginative visualization.
Art in War: Exploring a Painting
One of the ways to achieve maximum pleasure from a work of art is to find out as much as you can about the subject matter, the artist and its historical context. What can be uncovered about Paul Nash's Totes Meer?
When was this painting commissioned? What was the commissioner's reaction when it had been completed? Is there a deeper significance in the subject matter? Select the topics to find out more.
What does the image depict?
The scene is at the Metal and Produce Recovery Unit at Cowley, near Oxford - an aircraft salvage dump during World War Two. The painting was made soon after the Battle of Britain. This is the artist’s own description of what he saw.
Other issues you could explore when looking at a painting could be: Is the painting a recognisable type - a portrait or a landscape? Within that, are there recognisable elements in the painting a landmark, an object or a personality, for instance? Is the painting describing an event or a response to an event? Does the title or date offer any clues?
The artist and the commission
Paul Nash had established his reputation during World War One when his art became a strident and angry response to the Western Front, using the destruction of the landscape as a metaphor for the cost of the war. During the interwar years, his work adapted surrealism to the English landscape, animating incongruous, surprising or unusual objects within a traditional setting of urban or pastoral scenes. This inter-relationship arouses a sense of a hidden, almost mystical ordering of the land. He was employed as an official artist attached to the RAF during World War Two and produced first a series of British aircraft as aerial creatures, animated and ready for action then a series of crashed German planes.
Paul Nash had been commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee. Its chairman, Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery declared Totes Meer to be 'the best war picture so far I think'. It was an immediate success when displayed at the National Gallery in May 1941.
As a major British artist, there are a number of exhibition catalogues and books devoted to Nash’s work. Looking at the themes and subjects he was interested in will start to give some insights into this particular painting. In addition, Nash wrote frequently about art, including his own and this is another useful source, for instance his own description of Totes Meer is very revealing of what he saw and understood about the aircraft dump. Another way to understand Nash’s own vision is to compare his paintings of planes with those of other artists during World War Two.
Whereas for Hitler, modern art was at best a means of foreign currency and at worst morally degenerate, for Nash it had an explicit purpose - the defeat of Nazism, itself. “I want to use what art I have and what I can make as directly as possible into the character of a weapon”, he wrote. Immediately, Nash saw further propaganda possibilities in this painting and he anxiously sought out official figures of the numbers of planes brought down - information that could be printed on the back of a postcard reproduction and then dropped over Germany. The message was clear Britain’s borders are absolute and its defence unforgiving, every Nazi invader is repelled or defeated and then added to victorious tally. Nash was prepared to alter and corrupt the image further. Taking a postcard sized reproduction he added a photograph of Hitler’s head. Perhaps the end result loses the coldness of the original, but the joke and ambition is clear.
What does the painting symbolise?
The Cowley Aircraft dump contained as many, if not more, British planes, but it is the German ones Nash has chosen to represent and German title (‘dead sea’) indicates the final destination of the planes. Here the detritus of Nazi over-ambition fills the landscape and completes the picture. He is not specifically interested in the construction detail but the whole mass – the sea. Within that, certain elements, such as the central wing with the German markings, are stretched to give the impression of movement. The scene is painted at night when the eye is easily misled or mistaken, and any sort of movement threatening. In contrast the land is fertile, gentle and rolling. Nash did not see the owl as symbolic, but the watchful eye of a hunting bird is a reminder of the forces that brought the German planes down.
The one obvious symbol in the painting is the aircraft marking, identifying the nationality of the planes. Interpreting symbols is very difficult: recognising a crashed German plane would please a British audience, but think of how a German public would respond to the same sign. Rather, it is important to piece together all the elements of a painting and its title and to look for signs and symbols as part of this whole. Are their elements of the painting that support one another, or are there a deliberate contrasts or surprising juxtapositions?
Paul Nash: Outline, An Autobiography
Paul Nash was one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century. An official war artist in both the First and the Second World Wars, his paintings include some of the most definitive artistic visions of those conflicts. This new edition of Outline is published to coincide with a major Nash retrospective and incorporates an abridged edition of the unpublished ‘Memoir of Paul Nash’ by his wife Margaret.
Paul Nash (1889-1946) was one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century and an official war artist in both the First and the Second World Wars. This new edition of Nash’s unfinished autobiography, Outline, is published to coincide with the Tate's major Paul Nash retrospective and incorporates an abridged edition of the previously unpublished ‘Memoir of Paul Nash’ by his wife Margaret.
Nash started writing Outline in the late 1930s, but it was left incomplete on his sudden death in 1946. Nash had struggled to complete the book, finding that he could not get beyond the beginning of the Great War. Outline is, nevertheless, one of the great English literary works of the period, for Nash was a gifted writer. His autobiography offers considerable insights into to the young life of the artist himself, and the development of his personal and very distinctive vision.
When eventually published in 1949 his incomplete memoir was supplemented by letters that Nash wrote to his wife from the Western Front in 1917. This new edition includes these letters for the vivid insight they give into Nash’s experience of the war. The third element of the new edition is Margaret Nash’s revealing (and previously unpublished) 1951 memoir of her husband. What emerges through these different narrative voices and perspectives, enhanced with photographs of Paul and Margaret Nash and reproductions of key works from throughout Nash's career, is a fascinating portrait of a major figure in Modern British art.
David Boyd Haycock is a freelance writer, curator and lecturer, specialising in British art and culture in the first half of the 20th century. He is the author of a number of books, including Paul Nash (2002), A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (2009) and Paul Nash: Watercolours, 1910–1946 (2014).
Catalogue Persistent Identifier
Nash, Paul. & Perkinson, Henry J. & Kazamias, Andreas M. (1965). The educated man : studies in the history of educational thought. New York : Wiley
Nash, Paul. and Perkinson, Henry J. and Kazamias, Andreas M. The educated man : studies in the history of educational thought / [edited by] Paul Nash, Andreas M. Kazamias [and] Henry J. Perkinson Wiley New York 1965
Nash, Paul. & Perkinson, Henry J. & Kazamias, Andreas M. 1965, The educated man : studies in the history of educational thought / [edited by] Paul Nash, Andreas M. Kazamias [and] Henry J. Perkinson Wiley New York
The educated man : studies in the history of educational thought / [edited by] Paul Nash, Andreas M. Kazamias [and] Henry J. Perkinson
Includes bibliographical references.
The guardian: Plato, by J. J. Chambliss.--The orator: Isocrates, by C. M. Proussis.--The Stoic: Zeno, by J. E. Rexine.--The Christian: Augustine, by P. Kibre.--The Scholastic: Aquinas, by J. W. Donohue.--The classical humanist: Erasmus, by F. E. Schacht.--The pansophist: Comenius, by J. K. Clauser.--The gentleman: Locke, by K. D. Benne.--The natural man: Rousseau, by S. E. Ballinger.--The scientific humanist: Huxley, by C. Bibby.--The communal man: Marx, by P. Nyberg.--The reflect.
In the Library
Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video .
Epidemiology and natural history of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is part of the spectrum of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that leads to progressive liver disease and presents a growing challenge to public health. Because of the increased prevalence of metabolic syndrome and obesity, NAFLD and NASH have expanded to a substantial extent. In NASH patients, advanced fibrosis is the major predictor of morbidity and liver-related mortality, and an accurate diagnosis of NASH is mandatory. Although there is currently no validated test of serum biomarkers available to diagnose NASH, and histologic evaluation with a liver biopsy remains the gold standard, screening for fibrosis is recommended in patients with suspicion of NASH. Clinical prediction models and serum biomarkers for advanced fibrosis have relatively good negative predictive value and can be useful for screening. Also, transient elastography is increasingly available to estimate fibrosis in NASH. Therefore, due to the lack of a reliable and accepted non-invasive diagnostic modality, screening for NASH in the general population is not currently recommended. Better understanding of the natural history of NASH is needed to evaluate the utility and cost-effectiveness of screening.
Keywords: Epidemiology Fibrosis NAFLD NASH Screening.
Paul Nash: haunting paintings from the battlefields of war
War may have broken the spirit, but it made the artist. Paul Nash had always been a singularly talented painter with a mystical, neo-romantic vision of the natural world – but it was the horrific conflagration of war on an industrial scale that almost certainly shaped him to become one of the greatest British landscape painters of the 20th Century. The effect of World War One on his artistic maturity was profound, and his war paintings among his greatest masterpieces.
Nash’s war started quietly enough. Two months after its outbreak he enlisted as a private in the Artists’ Rifles, a London regiment that oversaw ground duties at the Tower of London. It was a full two years before he received officer training to fight at the Front, by which time conscription for married men – he had married the Suffragette Margaret Odeh in December 1914, five months after the outbreak of the war – had been introduced.
It was only near the end of 1917 that Nash became an official war artist. He had put in the request while recuperating in London, having fallen into a trench at Ypres in Belgium and broken a rib. The accident saved his life: just a few days later, most of the men in his regiment were killed at the Battle of Passchendaele.
Despite his fluency and eloquence as a writer – his wartime letters to Margaret brilliantly express his despair and bitter anger at the destruction that surrounded him – it was a loss that he was never able to speak of directly. In some ways, the profound shock of it must have echoed the loss of his mother, who had died in a mental institution when Nash was 20. He may even have feared such a fate himself (just as, incidentally, that other great British landscape painter, JMW Turner had like Nash, Turner’s mother had died in an asylum). He suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout his life, and his wartime experience would leave him, though no less productive, mentally and emotionally debilitated for years.
These biographical details are not incidental to Nash’s creative development. They provide an insight into the strange and haunted mood of his paintings, though they are somewhat hastily glossed over or left unmentioned in the otherwise superb Paul Nash retrospective currently at London’s Tate Modern. The survey features not only his most powerful war paintings, but devotes considerable space to the influence of the European avant-garde, particularly Surrealism, on his later output, in which that mood of disquiet becomes even more pronounced.
Before the outbreak of WW1, Nash had produced detailed, neatly precise drawings of wooded vistas and airy garden idylls in ink, chalk and pencil. Dreamlike, they occasionally featured stiff, somnambulant figures and were sometimes, rather prettily, overlaid with watercolours. (It was only in 1918 that he began working with oil paints.) These early pictures were in the tradition of ‘visionary’ artists such as Samuel Palmer and William Blake, though direct inspiration also came from Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti, not so much for the latter’s Victorian medievalism but for his embodiment of the spiritual in art.
From the start Nash’s own work was imbued with a spirit of place, the so-called genius loci. But it was a very different spirit that confronted him in Flanders in the winter of 1917 when, having recovered from his injury, he returned to the Front – a barren land of churned mud pockmarked with huge flooded shell craters that was barely passable. Death was all around, from shattered tree stumps to the twisted and mutilated bodies of soldiers. Not a dream, of course, but a waking nightmare.
Nash was never particularly gifted at capturing the human form soldiers, dead or alive, rarely inhabit Nash’s battered landscapes. In any case, the government censor would not have allowed for the depiction of dead soldiers – which, of course, would not have helped in the war effort. Unlike his fellow war artists, however, including his brother John Nash, Nash was most unusual in hardly depicting them at all, and never as the main focus of the image.
Wire, 1918 © Imperial War Museum, London
Instead it’s nature that is disturbingly violated by the deadly weapons of war. It is always the aftermath of battle he depicts, not the tense moment just before an attack, nor the dramatic moment during it. We see how the depiction of the suffering of the Earth takes on an almost religious quality in Wire, a watercolour from 1918. The sheet of barbed wire encases the lone tree stump whose erupted form suggests a crown of thorns, while the other distant tree stumps resemble stakes ploughed into the barren ground. We see how, in an almost monochrome painting, the corner of a sky appears like an ominously spreading bruise in red and mauve.
Anger comes through in the mocking title of one painting. We Are Making a New World (also from 1918) shows tree stumps, like a group of eerie sentinels, featured against a high horizon, over which a cold, chalk-white sun spreads its watery rays like thin search beams. Unable to warm the hard clumps of shattered earth, the sun is no longer a life-giving force.
We Are Making a New World, 1918
But Nash’s greatest WWI painting, and, at 6ft (1.8m) across, his most monumental, is the utterly arresting The Menin Road, 1919 (above). This time, unusually, we find the barely discernible figures of four soldiers attempting to move across the unforgiving, shell-shattered terrain. The painting’s dramatic diagonals and verticals show how Nash had adopted the hard intersecting planes of the English avant-garde Vorticist group. Commissioned by the Ministry of Information for a Hall of Remembrance that was never built, the painting was intended to celebrate the national ideals of heroism and sacrifice. This complex work is, perhaps deliberately, ambivalent on that front. But it does nonetheless express a kind of doomed magnificence.
Due to his war experiences, Nash suffered a terrible and protracted breakdown. In 1921, he moved with his wife to Dymchurch on the Kent coast, where he painted some of his most unrelentingly stark paintings of the barren coastline. In one, Winter Sea, which he actually began in 1925 but didn’t finish until years later, the waves of the sea are shown as angular folds in grey, black and white. The close-up surface of the sea, the severe perspective and the pitch-black horizon all suggest that we might be looking at a precipitous pathway leading toward eternal darkness.
Totes Meer (Dead Sea), 1940-1, © Tate
Nash’s adult life was bookended by war. When the lights dimmed across Europe a second time, he was again commissioned to work as an official war artist, though this time Nash, whose health was increasingly fragile, remained in Britain. His most powerful painting of World War Two is Totes Meer, the title meaning ‘Dead Sea’ in German. Instead of showing us a path towards eternal darkness, Nash painted a surreally undulating sea of crashed German bombers at Cowley, Oxfordshire, the site of a ‘graveyard’ for crashed enemy planes.
Less than a year after the war’s end, Nash died in his sleep of heart failure, aged 57. Chronic asthma had made him increasingly sickly during the last 10 years of his life. But his last series of paintings, depicting a mysterious equinox of huge sunflowers – airborne precursors of death, the soul as a floating presence – are among his most colourfully seductive and lyrically beguiling.
This feature appeared on BBC Online on 11 November, 2016, as part of Remembrance Day commemorations
|FOUNDATION - Nash Preservation Foundation.|
|REGIONS - NASH CAR CLUB local region listing's.|
|RELATED CLUBS - Other Nash related clubs.|
|EVENTS - Upcoming Club and other EVENTS.|
|CLUB SALES - Club Sales Items and Order Form.|
|MODEL NUMBERS - Breakdown of Models by year.|
Members Access to the NCCA Garage. ENTER HERE!
This is just a non-working sample of the Garage home page.
Among the things you will find there are:
a.) A Nash part interchange book.
b.) A searchable bibliography of more than a thousand articles about Nash and related vehicles.
c.) The NCCA Member Handbook.
d.) The NCCA Roster, searchable by name, address and type of car.
e.) A gallery of member car photos and a way to upload photos of your cars.
f.) A Document Depot, where members can upload documents and photos to share with other members