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Pallant House Gallery, Chichester: Paul Nash

A collection of Paul Nash’s early wood engravings, photographs, collages and correspondence is to go on display at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. The surrealist artist is probably best known for his dulcet watercolours depicting everything from the rolling hills of Kent to Ypres battlefields and hostile skies during the Battle of Britain. The collection was amassed by a close friend of the artist, Clare Neilson, and was gifted to the gallery through the Art Fund.

Paul Nash, Dyke by the Road.

The exhibition runs from the 9th of April to the 30th of June. I’ve always been attracted to the work of Paul Nash, particularly as I studied war art from the very beginnings of my degree. Nash is one of the most important artists of the first half of the twentieth century and the most evocative landscape painter of his generation. He is best known for his work as an official war artist, producing some of the most memorable images of both the First and Second World Wars.

Paul Nash, The Menin Road. 

Nash was also a pioneer of modernism in Britain, promoting the avant-garde European styles of abstraction and Surrealism in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1933 he co-founded the influential modern art movement Unit One with fellow artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and the critic Herbert Read. It was a short-lived but important move towards the revitalisation of English art in the inter-war period.

Nash, however, found his personal inspiration in the English landscape and he saw himself in the tradition of English mystical painters William Blake and Samuel Palmer. He was particularly drawn to landscapes with a sense of ancient history: grassy burial mounds, Iron Age hill forts and the standing stones at Avebury and Stonehenge. For him these sites had a talismanic quality which he called genius loci, or ‘the spirit of a place’, and he painted them repeatedly.

Paul Nash, Wittenham.

For a long time the work of Paul Nash has spoken to me and his technique particularly draws me into his pieces. The haunting depictions of war which sweep and cut through angles of light and darkness are juxtaposed with the calming landscapes of the ancient hills and trees that sit in serenity.

Paul Nash, The Ypres Salient at Night. 

Nash evokes strong emotions within his viewer, drawing on the theme of war within his work which is pushed through cutting strokes of paint, tumbling light striking through the tense air, featureless figures that roam the desolate terrain in an unguided frenzy. There is a sense of chaos and fear that seeps outwards. The exhibition at Chichester is a rare chance of explore these works closely, which is a must for fans and those who wish to discover the work of Nash for the first time.

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