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Perspectives

Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

New Acquisitions: Paul Nash

[ News )

Two British landscapes by war artist Paul Nash acquired by the nation for the Gallery.

Two important landscape paintings by the Modern British artist Paul Nash have been allocated to Pallant House Gallery via HM Government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme, administered by the Arts Council. Skylight Landscape (1941) and Frozen Lake (Black Park Pond, Iver Heath, Bucks) (1928) have been donated to the Gallery by Jeremy Greenwood and Alan Swerdlow.

 

Simon Martin, Director, Pallant House Gallery, said: “We are thrilled to acquire Paul Nash’s Skylight Landscape and Frozen Lake through the Cultural Gifts Scheme. These stunning paintings are remarkable additions to our collection of 20th century British landscape art and our significant holdings of Paul Nash paintings and prints. We are hugely grateful to Jeremy Greenwood and Alan Swerdlow for making this generous gift.”

A painter, illustrator and writer, Paul Nash (1889-1946) was at the forefront of British art in the first half of the 20th century. He was celebrated for his lyrical depictions of the English landscape and as an Official War Artist in both First and Second World Wars. Nash was a leading figure in both British surrealism and neo-romanticism in the 1930s and 1940s.

Nash’s association with Englishness placed his early landscape work in the tradition of John Sell Cotman. However, he explored a modernist aesthetic informed by international art movements such as abstraction and surrealism, writing of ‘going modern and being British’. He was drawn to particular landscapes and sites that he felt had a particular ‘sense of place’ and he would return to them throughout his career, imbuing them with symbolic qualities. Locations such as Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire, the Wittenham Clumps in the Thames Valley, Dymchurch on the Kent Coast and the landscape surrounding Madams – the Gloucestershire home of Charles and Clare Neilson to which Nash was a regular visitor – all became significant and repeated inspirations for his work.

Nash began his career in watercolour, and was drawn to the medium throughout his life, executing many of his most iconic works in this medium. Frozen Lake is representative of such understated watercolours of the English landscape. It is his final depiction of Black Park Lake on Iver Heath, near to where the artist spent his teenage years.

Painting of a frozen lake with fencing in front and trees behind

Paul Nash, Frozen Lake, 1928. Pencil, chalk and watercolour on paper. Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Jeremy Greenwood and Alan Swerdlow and allocated to Pallant House Gallery (2022)

Skylight Landscape was commissioned by Charles Neilson for his wife Clare, one of Nash’s most important patrons. It depicts the view of the Malvern Hills through the window of the attic of Madams, which was Clare Neilson’s study. The unconventional and distinctive composition includes the hinge of the window frame, reflective of Nash’s interest in surreal machine forms.

Due to asthma Nash was unable to fly in planes but he was drawn to imagery that was suggestive of aerial views from planes, particularly during the Second World War. Originally to have been called Green Landscape because of the trees in summer foliage depicted in the painting, Nash later changed it to the current title. The Pallant House Gallery archive includes four photographs of Nash painting this work in the attic, taken by Clare Neilson in 1941.

Paul Nash, Skylight Landscape, 1941. Oil on canvas Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Jeremy Greenwood and Alan Swerdlow and allocated to Pallant House Gallery (2022)

The Gallery has a substantial holding of works by Paul Nash including Dead Spring (1929), Wittenham (1935) and Garden of the Madamites (c.1941- 44), another view of the garden at Madams.

In 2013, the Gallery also received the Clare Neilson Collection through Art Fund, which includes books, collage, photographs, wood-engravings and watercolours and correspondence. Jeremy Greenwood, who donated this collection as well as Skylight Landscape and Frozen Lake through the Cultural Gifts scheme with his partner Alan Swerdlow, was the godson of Clare Neilson. An expert on Paul Nash and his brother John, Greenwood is the author of The Wood Engravings of Paul Nash (Wood Lea Press, 1997) and The Wood Engravings of John Nash (Wood Lea Press, 1987).

 

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said: “The Cultural Gifts Scheme exists so that important works of art and objects of heritage can be preserved and enjoyed by the public. Paul Nash is a hugely consequential artist who was at the forefront of British art for half a century, playing a huge role in the way the two World Wars were seen and understood – both at the time and now. I am delighted that two of his incredible landscapes will be on display for everyone to enjoy in Pallant House Gallery.”

 

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