Archive for category Subject: Paul Nash

Outline: an autobiography || Paul Nash

Paul Nash’s autobiography occupied the last fifteen or so years of his life. Starting in 1930, it was still unfinished when he died suddenly in 1946. The problem, as he acknowledged, was that he struggled to get beyond the start of the First World War, the period up to then being, “another life, another world”.

Eventually published in 1949, the version that exists provides many insights into the life of an artist and the development of a very distinct vision. Many, perhaps even most, artists think visually and struggle to express themselves in words. Nash, however, writes coherently and elegantly and demonstrates considerable self-awareness. It is entirely possible that the events that stopped him in his tracks also promoted this; writers who deal with the same period are similarly introspective and the period has promoted much great and thoughtful literature.

The original publication included a selection of the letters Nash wrote to his wife Margaret from the Western Front and these provide further insights into his state of mind as well as his experience of war. A new element here, though, is Margaret Nash’s previously unpublished memoir of her husband, written in 1951. This goes a long way towards completing the story and filling in many gaps.

The whole is augmented by reproductions of some of Nash’s major works although, as the paper used is more suited to type than images, they serve more as aides-mémoire than actual milestones.

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Brothers In Arms – John & Paul Nash and the aftermath of the Great War || Paul Gough

Paul Nash is one of the great names to have come out of the First World War, while his brother worked more quietly and almost in obscurity. In spite of this, they came together in exhibitions and occasionally shared a studio. To consider them together is entirely right.

There has been some danger of the celebration (is that the right word or the right ethos?) of the Great War becoming hagiographic and samey. There have, however, been not a few interesting re-appraisals of the period and this is one of them.

Looking at this, it’s hard not to conclude that Paul was generally the better artist, although John has a strong sense of design and colour and his best images can be striking, combining a strong sense of the Twentieth Century English landscape with a Modernist approach that is less defined and maybe even less self-conscious than that of his brother.

The work of Paul Nash has been covered extensively; that of John less so. By bringing the two together, this book places a focus on a corner of English painting during a period of crisis and change in both this country and the world. As well as a good selection of illustrations by both artists, the text provides a thorough account of the lives and work of both men.

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