the book cover for Paul Nash Painting, by Emma Chambers
Paul Nash Painting, Book Cover

Currently Reading: Paul Nash by Emma Chambers

A book on the art of Paul Nash that I found through the artist Tacita Dean’s writing. I was fascinated in the way she described Nash’s work. In particular how she argued for his landscapes functioning as a still life painting. Through the way he placed objects in relationship to one another and within the overall composition. Nash lived from 1889 to 1946 and I have found myself utterly captivated by his work since first learning about it.

a dramatic drawing of the sea at night with a ghostly figure in the right side standing along a sea wall
Night Tide, 1922

Night Tide, 1922 is a remarkable, ink on watercolor paper, drawing that possesses a dark foreboding power. Paul Nash places a figure, faintly depicted on the right side of the drawing almost appears to fade into the landscape. Their coat drawn tightly to their body. A hat pulled over the eyes. The waves are crashing against the sea wall. The waters awakened by a storm. In much of his work there is an explosive angular energy that pushes out from canvas or page, as clearly evidenced in this drawing.

Paul Nash Catalog

As I dove into this catalog of Paul Nash’s work, there immediately became a connection for myself between his paintings and my own explorations of landscape as a subject. In particular, how do we understand these places as they are translated by our hand? What do they become as we re-present them through our own work. Either through painting or by lens? How do they become something else? Something beyond just a lake, the sea or a tree?

a painting of the shoreline by Paul Nash where the sea wall cuts across the landscape orange tones for the sand and mud of the beach, cool colors form the shadows
Paul Nash, The Shore

That angularity is also apparent in image 4, The Shore from 1923, a painting that seems to possess a visual language that would seem to share much with the works of Wayne Thiebaud that would come decades later. It is the way Paul Nash removes information from his landscape, turning the large human interventions in the landscape, into simplified geometric shapes that cleaves the shore in two. The sea is at low tide and the docks are sitting in sand and mud. The ramp leading down to the beach from the sea wall carves into the sand and mud. When all combined, it creates a landscape of hard geometries and angles. The sea and sky almost disappearing in contrast to these man-made forms.

two paintings of trees by the artist Paul Nash
Paul Nash, Bird Garden, and A Landscape at Wood Lane, 1911 & 1913

Paul Nash’s Trees

Similarly, Paul Nash’s tree works, like Bird Garden from 1911 and a Landscape at Wood Lane, from 1913 (also 5), all depict landscapes that are at once natural, while not actually wild. There is always a relationship to human beings. The trees have a stylized appearance, their forms more universal than specific. Which reminded me again of how Dean articulated her ideas for these paintings and drawings being at once landscape and still life.

Paul Nash’s paintings from WWII, of war and landscape, can be seen here, on the Tate’s site. Another painter of landscapes and humans that I also have taken a strong fondness to, is Harold Sohlberg’s Fisherman’s Cottage, which I wrote about here, in my journal.