I've fallen madly in love with Paul Nash and after reading the reviews, I realize I am not alone (see below). If you live in London, please run to see this exhibition and do report back.
He's described in the same breath as Blake and Samuel Palmer and his work is reminiscent of Charles Burchfield; finding the divine in nature. He's called a surrealist, a war artist, a visionary. He depicted the horror of war but at the same time he liked the chalky downs of England, found the ancient there, and the magical.
This is from the review in The Telegraph:
Paul Nash is a peculiar, and peculiarly British, artist. Born in London in 1889, he lived a modest, itinerant life, staying with friends, or renting houses dotted across southern England. He became obsessed with features in the local landscape, such as the stone circles at Avebury, or chalky Ballard Down in Dorset, and always felt a profound connection with the history of his homeland. In his early twenties, he was already writing to a friend about the "strange enchantment" of the prehistoric earthworks at Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, "a beautiful, legendary country haunted by old gods long forgotten".
his landscapes, many of which can be seen here, offer a curious blend of ancient and modern, of the hoary spirit of Albion dressed in up-to-the-minute fashions. A painting by Nash is at once timeless and unmistakably of its time: the artist conjured a rough-hewn, druidic magic, but his spells were cast in a 20th-century idiom.
Whiteleaf Cross, The Chilterns
And this from Time Out:
his famous depiction of the rutted battlefields and scorched trees of Ypres, 'We Are Making a New World' of 1918, is as poetic as TS Eliot's 'Wasteland'
From solstice to equinox, night to day, Nash made his seas sing and his trees whistle.
People get very excited by Paul Nash's work. Note this, from the review in The Independent:
Still, the work is so spellbinding, it raises a question of belief. It goes beyond symbolism, beyond a theatrical shiver. It asks you, quite seriously: do you believe in ghosts?And you have to love this (from the same review):
Ghosts. All right, it's not the right word. I don't mean something white and flitting, or an armoured man with his head held under his arm. The presences in Nash-world are something far less defined and less definable. It is haunted all through. Or that's partly it. But I'm not sure that even Nash found the right words for his spell.In his essay "The Life of the Inanimate Object", he wrote about "the endowment of natural objects, organic but not human, with powers or personal influences..."
Nash gives us the kind of feeling that crop circles gave us, when they first appeared and their status was still obscure and unaccountable.
(h/t boojum: had i not read her FB update, i would not have known about this exhibit)