NASH Paul
( 1889-1946) Born in Dymchurch, Kent; died in Boscombe. Studied at the Slade School, then joined the London Group and the New English Art Club. In 1953 he was one of the founding members of the group of painters, sculptors and architects called 'Unit One'. Nash was an official war artist in both world wars, and during the period between his stark, angular records of the Western Front and his more visionary records of the Battle of Britain, his gentle yet disturbing romanticism made him a dominant figure in British painting. Although Nash underwent a number of influences -- first Cézanne, later Surrealism and Constructivism -- he remained essentially true to his origins, and his concept of art was profoundly marked by a Nordic and Celtic strain. He felt that his destiny was to find his way back to the sources of English art. Technically his roots may be found in Cotman and Turner: his colours were the soft colours of the moisture-laden atmosphere of England and even his oils maintain a fluidity and lyricism which relate him to the best traditions of the English water-colourists. Poetically his roots were in the work of Blake: he had the same tireless imagination, tinged with mysticism, which drove him constantly to search in new directions. His painting suggested a sort of druidical rite inspired by his contact with Nature and its overtones of history and memory. When he erected sinister, obsessive monoliths in a moon-bathed desert landscape, he was only responding to the call of a magic symbolism which can be found at the origin of all primitive arts. He was acutely aware of analogies and correspondences. The sea of German aircraft destroyed in the Battle of Britain suggested to him the waves of a sea of death, and he called it Totesmeer. For him the tree trunks in Monster Field blasted by lightning had entered another existence. 'We are not studying two fallen trees that look like animals', he wrote, 'but two monster objects outside the plan of natural phenomena.' The association of, or 'encounter' between, objects in different elements fascinated him, and several of his last paintings are built around the mutually echoing forms of sun and sunflower. In any landscape Nash sought the active element, the drama -- but it was always a drama of the inner eye. The most striking image in the Bible, he once said, is the sentence 'Why leap ye, ye high hills?' because it ascribes a power of movement to inanimate things. It is just this same animistic force upon which Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore have since drawn. Nash is represented in numerous British museums; in addition to his painting he carried out a good deal of book illustration, some textile and poster design, and some theatre décor.
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