Nash Brothers, Paul and John by Scholes, Robert

Nash Brothers (Paul, 1889 – 1949 and John, 1893 – 1977) These two talented brothers followed different paths as artists. Paul had the academic training, and it shows. John, self-taught, was more experimental, more of a modernist in some ways, when they started out. But Paul followed modernism all the way to surrealism. We have gathered some information about them below. A book has been written about John, by Allen Frear, called The Delighted Eye. And there is a book about Paul by David Boyd Haycock, called Paul Nash. From : Paul Nash (1889-1946), the British landscape painter and wood engraver, was born in London on 11 May 1889, the son of a lawyer. Nash was educated at St. Paul’s School and then Slade School of art (unlike his younger brother John, who became an artist without formal training). Nash’s first one-man exhibition was shown in his final year at Slade, 1912. With a style said to be influenced variously by Cézanne and Blake, Nash’s watercolours were nevertheless highly distinctive. During the First World War Nash enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles in 1914, serving at Ypres on the Western Front. Nash continued to sketch in an unofficial capacity during this time, specialising in scenes of trench life. By 1916 Nash had reached the rank of lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment. Invalided home in 1917 as a consequence of a non-military accident, Nash’s artistic skills were put to use with his appointment as an official war artist following an exhibition of worked-up paintings of his earlier war sketches. His stark landscapes of the Western Front created a lasting impression; his paintings continue to be displayed today as representative of the reality of war, although Nash himself complained during the war of the restrictions placed upon his work by the requirements of the War Propaganda Bureau (WPB) managed by Charles Masterman. The primary work of the WPB was to represent the government’s view in the form of pamphlets, articles, books, film – and in paintings. By the close of the war the WPB employed the services of more than 90 artists in this capacity. From 1928 onwards Nash was increasingly influenced by surrealism and abstract art, a potent combination with his stark landscapes. He also worked as an illustrator and designer. Employed once again as a war artist in 1940 during the Second World War, Nash chose this time to depict the air war. Paul Nash died in Boscombe, Hampshire on 11 July 1946. His collected writings were published posthumously in a single volume in 1949. In for December 4th, 1913 , Anthony Ludovici had this to say about the work of the Nash Brothers: The New Age (NA 14:05:153) At the Dorien Galleries, South Kensington, there is an exhibition of pictures by the brothers Paul and John Nab, which has many very stimulating aspects. It contains the work of two young people, one of whom has undergone sorn’e schooling and the other none. The work is fresh, very often exuberant, and in many cases-especially where Mr. John Nash is concerned- quite exhilarating. Frankly, I am not quite convinced by Mr. Paul Nash’s trees. Only here and there does he seem to make them of human interest (as in No. 5, for instance), and even then, one asks oneself how much is not borrowed from the old and much abused hour of day so deeply loved by Maeterlinck and all poets to whom the pallid, mysterious, vague and ghostly glimmer of moonlight is an eternal inspiration. I should really like to talk about these trees with Mr. Paul Nash. So far, 1 have not had an opportunity of doing so. But, after all I do not like trees as trees, for a subject. Pictures by Mr. Paul Nash which I infinitely prefer, are “Sunset in a Corn Valley” (No. 26), and “Green Hill” (No. 28). These really show some poetical feeling and a nice mastery of colour. It is in these pictures alone that Mr. Paul Nash makes any genuine appeal to me, if I could wish anything in the matter it would be that he might keep to this style. Mr. John Nash is obviously without braining. What, therefore, is his charm? His charm is that of almost all untrained expressers–he is fresh, ingenuous, serene, frequently quite lucky in surpassing by intuition even trained dexterity, and he is as definite as a child in knowing what he wants to say and the best means within his power to say it. So much for his qualities, and they are evident enough in such works as “Evening under Sinodun” (No. 8), “The Fold under the Hill” (No. g), and “The Train” (No. 16). But the appeal is always, to my mind, the appeal of a child. It is difficult to forget its immaturity. “Trees by the River” (No. 19 for instance, is as fresh and as beautiful as a child’s cheek. But-I will not say more. Let Mr. John Nash understand this about schooling. Greatness and strength do not necessarily consist in avoiding a school, the best proof of their existence is very often shown in surviving it. On the outbreak of the First World War, Nash joined the First Artist Rifles. On one occasion Nash was one of eighty men ordered to cross No-Mans-Land at Marcoing near Cambrai. Of these, only Nash and eleven men returned. Afterwards Nash painted Over the Top in memory of the failed attack.

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