Spotlight on six paintings that will feature in the Paul Nash show at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
- Credit: © Tate, London 2015
The latest major art exhibition at Norwich's Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts puts the spotlight on wartime artist and Surrealist painter Paul Nash. Arts correspondent Emma Knights looks at six paintings in the show with exhibition coordinator Laura Peterle.
Renowned for his powerful depictions of the First and Second World Wars as well his landscapes and his key role in the Surrealist movement, Paul Nash is considered one of the most important British artists of the first half of the 20th century.
From April 8 visitors to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, on the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich, will be taken on a journey through the life and work of the master painter who was an official war artist during both world wars and who died aged 57 in 1946.
This latest exhibition is the largest exhibition of Paul Nash's work for many years, and it is coming to Norwich direct from Tate Britain before heading north to Newcastle. It will feature everything from his earliest drawings to his most iconic wartime paintings, including We Are Making A New World (1918), The Menin Road (1919) and Totes Meer (Dead Sea) (1941). The exhibition also considers his position at the forefront of developments in British modern art.
Laura Peterle, exhibition coordinator at the Sainsbury Centre, said: 'It is a retrospective of Paul Nash who is probably most well known for his wartime paintings. In the exhibition we have included not only his wartime paintings but also earlier works he produced from 1910 onwards through to naturalistic paintings in the 1920s then into the 1930s when he became more involved in the Surrealist movement...It is a retrospective that covers his whole life. His work changed very much throughout those 57 years and it is a very interesting journey.'
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The exhibition, which is at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts from April 8 until August 20, has been organised by Tate Britain in association with the Sainsbury Centre and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. Tickets cost £12 (£10.50 concessions). For more about the exhibition and to book tickets, visit www.scva.ac.uk
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Berkshire Downs (1922) and Behind the Inn (1919-22)
During the First World War, Paul Nash served on the Western Front, initially as a Second Lieutenent with the Hampshire Regiment, and then later as an official war artist during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.
'When he came back from the war he really suffered from what today we would call post traumatic stress disorder,' said Miss Peterle.
'He moved to a place called Dymchurch, in Kent, in 1921 and during that time he became really emotionally attached to significant places which inspired a whole sequence of works. Among the places he was really inspired by was the Berkshire Downs and the Chiltern Hills. [The painting] Behind the Inn is the the view from the Red Lion pub in Whiteleaf.
'Berkshire Downs and Behind the Inn are very early paintings, they are just after the First World War...his painting then was still very naturalistic, later they became stylised, but these were very naturalistic paintings.'
The Rye Marshes (1932)
'He lived in Dymchurch for about four years and in 1925 he moved to Iden which is near Rye and also the Romney Marshes.
'They became the settings for a variety of paintings and you can see that his style has changed very much,' said Miss Peterle.
'This painting dates from 1932. It is very stylised and very geometric and angular. 'Some of it, and especially the canal, does remind you of the geometric, angular features of the paintings Paul Nash did of the trenches in the First World War - like The Ypres Saliet at Night (1918) - which show the disorientation of the trenches.'
Mansions of the Dead (1932)
'This is a watercolour that was originally made as an illustration for polymath Sir Thomas Browne's treatise on burial rites,' said Miss Peterle. The texts Urne Buriall and the Garden of Cyrus were prompted by the 1658 discovery of sepulchral urns in Walsingham.
'They were republished in the 1930s and Paul Nash contributed 32 drawings, one of them Mansions of the Dead,' said Miss Peterle. 'It's quite clear to see the interest in the supernatural world in the drawing which was at the time highly compatible with Surrealism and the use of dreams. The watercolour shows an aerial construction visited by souls of the dead. He created a larger version of the work which he included in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936. It really reinforced the perception of Paul Nash as a Surrealist artist - before that he was widely known as a landscape artist.'
Bomber in the Corn (1940) and Totes Meer (Dead Sea) (1940-41)
Both Bomber in the Corn and Totes Meer were produced during the Second World War
'Paul Nash was appointed as an official war artist by the War Artists Advisory Committee in 1940,' said Miss Peterle.
'In the beginning, while working for the Air Ministry, he painted a series of watercolours of crashed German bombers, and Bomber in the Corn is one of those.
'In August 1940 he went to Oxfordshire and discovered a field of wrecked German and British aircraft. This relates to the Totes Meer painting.
'He did sketches of the aircrafts and took a lot of photos, and we are showing some of these in the exhibition as well as a film of him sketching there.
''Totes Meer' is German for Dead Sea.
'You can really see the Surrealist idea of metamorphosis in how he transforms the crashed planes into the waves of the sea.'