Paul nash

A soldier’s-eye view

The first world war paintings of Paul Nash are so vivid and emotive that they have come to embody, as readily as any photograph, the horrendous, bitter misery of the trenches. His blighted landscapes represent the destruction of a generation of soldiers, men who were blasted apart as carelessly as the bomb-shattered mud in ‘The Mule Track’ (1918) or the reproachful twists of blackened wood and pocked land in ‘Wire’ (1918/9). These works are fixtures in our visual understanding of that war. It is strange, then, to see an exhibition of first world war art that excludes Nash, his brother John, and indeed any of the other artists we associate

Romantic modern

In 1932 Paul Nash posed the question, is it possible to ‘go modern’ and still ‘be British?’ — a conundrum that still perplexes the national consciousness more than 80 years later. It is true that the artist himself answered that query with an emphatic ‘yes’. But, as the fine exhibition at Tate Britain makes clear, his modernism was deeply traditional. The truth is that Nash (1889–1946) was what the author Alexandra Harris has termed a ‘romantic modern’. In other words, his art was a characteristic Anglo-Saxon attempt to have things both ways. Equally typically, he managed to do so — but only some of the time. Nash’s early drawings and

Waspish traditionalist

Randolph Schwabe (b. 1885) was a measured man in art and in life. His drawings are meticulous, closely observed models of draughtsmanship and represent a school of art that has now largely been lost or dismissed as irrelevant. To some, though, Schwabe seemed old-fashioned even in 1930 when he ascended to the position of Principal of the Slade school of art, taking over from the formidable Henry Tonks. The publication of his diaries from 1930 until his death in 1948 offers a welcome insight into the divergence in British art between the traditionalists and the new breed of modernists. Schwabe was emphatically of the former camp, and never lost his

Magnetic north

‘Edvard Munch, I cannot abide,’ wrote Nikolai Astrup in a letter to his friend Arne Giverholt. ‘Everything that he does is supposed to be so brilliant that it doesn’t have to be more than merely sketched.’ Near contemporaries, Munch and Astrup were both innovative and admired painters but while Munch is today one of the few household-name artists, thanks to one misunderstood and overrated painting, Astrup has been neglected by everyone outside Norway. Happily, this is a travesty soon to be rectified by Dulwich Picture Gallery, which next month stages the first major exhibition of Astrup’s work to be held in Britain. Unlike many other Norwegian painters, Munch included, Astrup

Best in show | 31 December 2015

Until a decade and a half ago, we had no national museum of modern art at all. Indeed, the stuff was not regarded as being of much interest to the British; now Tate Modern is about to expand vastly and bills itself as the most popular such institution in the world. The opening of the new, enlarged version on 17 June — with apparently 60 per cent more room for display — will be one of the art world events of the year. But, like all jumbo galleries, it will face the question: what on earth to put in all that space? Essentially, there are two answers to that conundrum.

Light fantastic

The most unusual picture in the exhibition of work by Eric Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery, in terms of subject-matter at least, is entitled ‘Bomb Defusing Equipment’. In other ways — crisp linear precision, a designer’s eye for the melodious arrangement of shapes — it is typical of Ravilious. Characteristic, too, is the way he has given these implements associated with warfare and high explosives an almost jaunty air, shading into melancholy mysteriousness. That’s the Ravilious note, and I must admit I find it irresistible. Ravilious (1903–42) was one of the most beguiling of mid-20th-century British artists. Yet it is still not quite clear what position he has in art

A lost opportunity to show John Nash at his best

John Northcote Nash (1893–1977) was the younger brother of Paul Nash (1889–1946), and has been long overshadowed by Paul, though they started their careers on a relatively even footing. The crucible of WW1 changed them: afterwards Paul became an art-world figure, cultivating possible patrons, quietly forceful and ambitious, deeply involved in the theory and practice of Modernism. John retreated into his love of nature (in particular gardening and fishing) but continued to paint with an almost classical refinement and orderliness. His art stayed close to nature yet stood back from it, while the Romantic Paul was consciously experimental, adopting a poetic approach that was unexpectedly graphic until the great paintings

Paul Nash, by Andrew Causey – review

Andrew Causey opens his book on a slightly defensive note: Paul Nash, he says is often identified as Britain’s outstanding 20th-century landscape painter, as if painting the natural scene was the only thing he did, or landscape art as a genre is entirely separable from others, such as portraiture or history painting. It is unexpected to find that at least among art historians the idea of landscape painting as a lesser genre still lingers. To the general public Paul Nash is as likely to be familiar as an official war artist of both world wars, author of one of the most indelible images of the Great War, ‘We are Making

Intimations of infinity

Andrew Lambirth finds a striking metaphor for the physical limitations of earthbound existence versus the infinite freedom of the spirit in Paul Nash’s painting ‘Winter Sea’ Paul Nash is one of the best-loved English painters of the last century, a great imaginative artist, always trying to discover the appropriate form for what he wanted to say. Nash was a philosopher-poet who expressed himself best (though he was a good writer) in visual terms and chose landscape painting as his primary vehicle. Although he died prematurely, in 1946 at the age of 57, his work stands easily above that of most of his contemporaries, and its originality and inventiveness have continued