The Work of Paul Nash

British artist Paul Nash known for his surrealist painting and book illustrations left his most important and enduring legacy as a war artist.  A reluctant member of the Artist’s Rifles at the beginning of the first world war, Nash was sent to the western front in 1917 as the second lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment.  After falling in to a trench, Nash was sent home to recover and it was during his recuperation in London that he produced a series of war sketches that would be exhibited the next year.  He was then recruited as an official war artist and the next series of sketches made on his return to the western front would then be used for his first oil paintings.  His work would convey some of the most powerful imagery of the first world war.  Shattered, sharp lines, fragmented shapes and expressively manic brush strokes and drawn edges characterise his depictions of war torn, devastated landscapes.  The scorches, battered earth contrasts beautiful with the beautiful rolling clouds and enduring light of his skies perhaps represent some hope in the brutality of the scorched earth below it, occasionally illuminating each scene with beams of clean light.  Figures rarely feature in his compositions except as perpetrators of further destruction.  The land it’s self is the protagonist, living or, indeed, dying before us.  Nash said of his work “I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.”paul nash12The Messerschmidt in Windsor Great Park 1940 by Paul Nash 1889-1946paul nash10Landscape from a Dream 1936-8 by Paul Nash 1889-1946paul nash8paul nash7Totes Meer (Dead Sea) 1940-1 by Paul Nash 1889-1946paul nash6paul nash5The Menin Road, Paul Nash, 1919 IWM ART 2242paul nash2paul nash

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