Paul Nash Review: Mysterious Places

Paul Nash, We Are Making a New World, 1918. Image Source: Imperial War Museum/Tate

'There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed.' – Paul Nash, Outline (1949)

Paul Nash needs almost no introduction; a renowned war artist and painter of surreal landscapes, he is arguably one of Britain’s most well-known twentieth century artists. However, there is a tendency to see Nash as somewhat separate from the development of modern art in the twentieth century. Perhaps this is due to the way we historicise painting traditions - associating landscape with the parochialism of an island mentality and contrasting it with the metropolitanism of more avant-garde moderns. Or maybe it’s our romanticising of the artist; he is often portrayed as something of a loner in British modernist circles. It’s these kind of received ideas that Tate Britain’s Paul Nash exhibition sets out to challenge.

Discussions of Nash are usually centred around two key periods in his life; his time as an official war artist in the First and Second World Wars. Paintings like We Are Making a New World or The Menin Road (both 1918) cannot fail