Paul Nash - Modern Artist, Ancient Landscape At Tate Liverpool

By Matt Havercroft | 24 July 2003
Shows a painting depicting no mans land with charred trees, churned mud and the sun bursting through clouds at the top.

Image: We Are Making a New World, 1918. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Perhaps most famous for his devastating canvases from the First World War trenches, Paul Nash went on to become the most important landscape painter of the pre-Second World War period and a pioneer of modernism in Britain.

Modern Artist, Ancient Landscape, at Tate Liverpool until October 19 2003, is the first major survey exhibition of work by Paul Nash since 1989.

Bringing together major cycles of paintings for the first time since they were completed, there is also a previously unseen selection of Nash's photographs and archive material.

Shows a painting depicting a coastal landscape with a see through screen at its centre in front of which stands a crow.

Image: Landscape from a Dream, 1936-8. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Tate. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1946.

The son of a successful lawyer, Nash was born in London in 1889. He was educated at St Paul's School and the Slade School of art. Influenced by the work of William Blake, Nash had his first one-man shows in 1912 and 1913.

After enlisting in the Artists' Rifles he was sent to the western front where he started to sketch life on the battlefield. Nash's work was well received and the War Propaganda Bureau recruited Nash as a war artist in one of his most productive periods.

During the Second World War, Nash was employed by the Ministry of Information and the Air Ministry and he continued to produce paintings depicting the influence of war on the landscape during this period

Shows a painting depicting an area of no man's land, in the foreground there is a shell hole filled with water, while two soldiers pick their way through charred trees at the centre and shards of sunlight pierce the background.

Image: The Menin Road, 1919. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Having absorbed various influences from the French avant-garde, Nash utilised abstraction and Surrealism to great effect. In particular, the influence of surrealism provoked his interest in the mystical and symbolic power of the landscape.

The cycles of the moon and the seasons, of death and rebirth, decay and renewal were all dominant themes in his painting cycles of the 1930s and 40s. Paul Nash died in 1946.

Following a loose chronology, the exhibition focuses on Nash's key cycles of landscape painting.

Shows a painting of an aerial plane battle above the sea out of which a river snakes into the foreground. The is full of of jet streams while a squadron of aircraft is amassed to the right.

Image: Battle of Britain, 1941. Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, London.

Bringing together paintings, works on paper, photographs and rare archive material, this exhibition offers an opportunity to trace the development of Nash's ideas and stylistic development.

In particular, the exhibition explores Nash's unique fusion of ancient and modern, his life-long preoccupation with landscape and nature and the development of national sensibility during the interwar years.

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