Paul Nash, 1889-1946
Simple name : Person: artist
Collection : People
Reference number : 1996/5080
Preferred name :
Paul Nash was born in London, the son of William Henry Nash and the elder brother of John Nash. He studied at Chelsea Polytechnic (1906-7) and the Slade (1910-1911), where he met Ben Nicholson.
Nash painted landscapes in oils, watercolours and gouache and his first one-man show at the Carfax Gallery in 1912 revealed the influence of Samuel Palmer. Early recognition as a landscape artist was followed by an invitation from Roger Fry to join the Omega Workshops, which he briefly did. During WW1 he served with the Artists' Rifles and worked as an official war artist. Watercolours of the war-torn landscape in France led to a one-man show in London in 1917. Nash also produced oil paintings of what he called 'those wastes in Flanders'.
A book illustrator and theatre designer, Nash was tutor in painting at the Royal College of Art (1924-5 and 1938-40), where his pupils included Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious.
In 1928 at the London Group retrospective his most famous war painting, 'We are Making a New World' was exhibited. After the War he continued to exhibit with the London Group and in 1919 he served on the Group's hanging committee. His carefully worked landscapes in oils and watercolours revealed the influence of Cezanne and Derain. However, his disciplined and ordered pictures provoked the 'Athenaeum' to write in October 1920: 'There is always a danger with Mr Paul Nash that by the time he has constructed his ingenious simplifications something essential to his first conception has evaporated. But more probably the truth is that Mr Paul Nash is a fantasist rather than an artist of passion.'
During the 1920s Nash designed sets for various theatre productions and in 1922 he visited Paris. By the late 1920s he had begun to use surreal elements in his work. At this period he also began taking photographs of the landscape and they were used as the basis of his paintings. After a visit to Avebury in 1933 he became deeply interested in the prehistoric megaliths.
In close contact with the European avant garde during the 1930s, Nash was a co-founder and promoter of Unit One (1933), together with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Edward Burra and Edward Wadsworth. He exhibited with the International Surrealist Group in London (1936), as well as major Surrealist shows in Tokyo, Amsterdam and Paris (1937-8). After the formation of Unit One he stopped exhibiting with the London Group. His paintings during the 1930s were sometimes semi-abstract, and surrealist tendancies were strongly evident. However, Nash remained essentially a painter of the English landscape and his central concern was always to evoke a sense of place.
In 1936 Christian Barman commissioned Paul Nash to design moquette for the proposed 1938 stock. Only one design is recorded, called 'Alperton'. It is not known whether Nash submitted more designs, nor it is known whether 'Alperton' was actually used on any vehicle in service.
In 1949 'Outline: An Autobiography' was published by Faber. A retrospective exhibition was held at the Tate Gallery in 1975.
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- Chelsea Polytechnic : 1906-1907
- The Slade : 1910-1911
- Designed posters and moquette for London Transport : 1935-1936