Wednesday 20 January 2021

John Nash - part 1

John Northcote Nash, the son of a barrister and younger brother of the war artist Paul Nash (a series on Paul Nash will follow) was born at Ghuznee Lodge, in Kensington, London in 1893. In 1901 his family returned to Buckinghamshire, where the garden of Wood Lane House at Iver Heath and the countryside of the Chiltern Hills greatly influenced him. Educated at Wellington College, John started work as a trainee journalist but his life changed when his brother, who had enrolled at the Slade, brought home two fellow students, Claughton Pellew and Dora Carrington, who inspired him to become an artist. Dora also introduced him to his future wife Christine Kuhlensthal (1895-1976), a talented artist who trained at the Slade with Paul Nash in the years immediately preceding World War One. They married in 1918.

John Nash did not receive any formal training, following his brother’s advice that it would ruin his unique vision of landscape. It would be unfair however to describe John Nash as an amateur artist especially after the notable success of his first exhibition in 1913 at the Dorien Leigh Gallery in Pelham Street in London.

During the First World War, in 1916, John Nash joined the ‘Artists Rifles’ before becoming an Official War Artist in 1918. From 1919 he then lived at Whiteleaf in Buckinghamshire where he became part of the renaissance of English book illustration. The drawings and engravings of this period especially reveal Nash’s knowledge of literature and botany as can be seen in his illustration of Poisonous Plants published in1927. During that period Nash also produced comic drawings inspired by Edward Lear, whose work he had seen in the home of his aunt Gussie, one of Lear’s girlfriends.

During the 1920s Nash taught at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford and remained a teacher until the end of his life, inspiring many, including some of the best Kew artists. During most of the interwar years John Nash and his wife lived at Meadle in Buckinghamshire. From there both went on holidays all over England during which they filled numerous sketch books with pen, pencil and wash studies which developed into oil and watercolour compositions in their studio. Like Constable, Nash made annotations in these books about the weather on particular days.

Nash had a great passion for plants and his technique as a plant illustrator deserves special notice as he excelled in the field. He liked to use live specimen which sometimes was a problem when publishers asked for illustrations of plants which were not in season. He often used his garden, which was planted with a wide variety of plants such as roses, irises, gentians and hellebores. John Nash had always been interested in botany even as a child he had won a Botany Prize and, like his friend Cedric Morris, he called himself an ‘artist plantsman’.

In 1940 he was commissioned as an Official War Artist in the Royal Marines, a role he did not especially enjoy, preferring to paint the English landscape, which he did after the war. From 1922 Nash had made many visits to Essex and rented a summer cottage at Wormingford, near Colchester and in 1945 he and his wife bought Bottengoms Farm where they lived until they died. When in Essex Nash taught at Colchester Art School and conducted yearly plant illustration courses at Flatford Mill. As one of the founders of Colchester Art Society (and later the Society’s President) and through exhibitions of his own work, he became closely connected with the Minories Art Gallery. On his death he bequeathed his personal library and several of his paintings as well as the engravings recorded in this catalogue to the Gallery. Since then, the library, the paintings and most of the engravings were sold to the Tate.

Nash was made an ARA in 1940 and RA in 1951 and was appointed CBE in 1964. In 1967 he was given the first ever retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy by a living painter. John Nash’s work can be found in many private and public collections such as the Tate Gallery, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. 

This is part 1 of a 4-part series on the works of John Nash:

c1912-13  Rolling Hills
pencil and watercolour 28.5 x 27 cm

c1912 Apple Gatherers
wood engraving 9 x 3.2 cm

1913 Haymaking
tempera 48 x 39.3 cm
The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

1914 A Gloucestershire Landscape
oil on canvas 51.2 x 61.5 cm
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, UK

c1914 Farm on a Hillside
pencil, watercolour, bodycolour and ink 27.9 x 33 cm

c1915 A Path through Trees
oil on canvas 50.8 x 61 cm
Tate, London

c1915 Dorset Landscape
pencil, chalks and watercolour 41.5 x 38.5 cm
Tate, London

c1915 Spring Landscape
pencil, watercolour, coloured crayon and pen and black ink 30.5 x 39.1 cm

c1916 The Viaduct
oil on canvas 88.8 x 66 cm
Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds Museums and Galleries, UK

1917 Oppy Wood
Imperial War Museums, London

1917 Oppy Wood
Imperial War Museums, London

1917 Oppy Wood, 1917: Evening
oil on canvas 182 x 213.3 cm
Imperial War Museums, London

1917 Oppy Wood, Evening
Imperial War Museums, London

1918 A French Highway
oil on canvas 91.4 x 71.1 cm
Imperial War Museums, London

1918 An Advance Post: Day
oil on canvas 76.2 x 50.8 cm
Imperial War Museums, London

1918 Over The Top: First Artists Rifles at Marcoing,
 30 December 1917

oil on canvas 79.8 x 108 cm
Imperial War Museums, London

1918 The Cornfield
oil on canvas 68.6 x 76.2 cm
Tate, London

1918 The Cornfield
watercolour on paper 18.7 x 27 cm
Tate, London

1919 Edge of the Plain
watercolour with pen and black ink and touches of gouache, over graphite, on ivory wove paper 26.3 x 36.6 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1919 The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway
oil on canvas 68.5 x 80 cm
Imperial War Museums, London

The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway
Imperial War Museums, London

1920 Horses Grazing
wood engraving 6.4 x 6.4 cm

1920 Nude Figure on Couch
wood engraving

1920 Sapperton Village (recto on another artwork)
pen, brush and black and grey wash on cream wove paper
31.2 x 38.3 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1920 Winter Scene, Buckinghamshire
oil on canvas 47 x 77.6 cm
Manchester Art Gallery, UK

cc1920-30 Untitled (garden scene)
wood engraving 13.7 x 15.8 cm (image)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA

c1920 Untitled (Flagon and Bowl)
wood engraving 13.8 x 10 cm

1921 Darts at Set’s Hole
wood engraving 10.1 x 12.6 cm

1921 Mare and Foal
Illustration to an article in the Artists’ Rifles Journal
wood engraving 6.1 x 5.5 cm

1921 The Watchdog or Oh The Dear Little Dogay
Illustration to an article in the Artists’ Rifles Journal
wood engraving 6.2 x 7 cm

1922 before The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble
oil on canvas 76.2 x 50.8 cm
Tate, London

1922 Cottage in a Windswept Landscape
pencil, pastel and watercolour 19.6 x 32.4 cm

1922 Landscape with Trees
pencil, watercolour and pastel 36.7 x 26.6 cm

1923 Babs
wood engraving 15.2 x 9.5 cm

by 1923 The Lane
watercolour on paper 28.6 x 38.7 cm
Tate, London

1923 Ipswich Dock
pencil, coloured crayon and watercolour
lightly squared for transfer 38.1 x 48.9 cm

1923 Shearing Sheep
wood engraving

1923 Walled Pond, Little Bredy, Dorset
oil on canvas 56.2 x 76.4 cm
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, UK

c1923 Farm through Trees
watercolour and pencil on paper 31 x 39.5 cm

c1924-30 The Garden under Snow
oil on canvas 76.4 x 61.2 cm
Ulster Museum, Belfast, UK

c1924 Cyclamen Persicum
wood engraving on paper 17.1 x 12.4 cm
Tate, London

c1924 The Dredgers, Bristol Docks
oil on canvas 66.7 x 85 cm
Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, UK

1925 A Cottage in Gloucestershire 
wood engraving

1925 Ad Amicam, Ut Ad Rura Sua Remiat
wood engraving

1925 Ad Cypassium Ancillam Corinnae
wood engraving

1925 Epiphyllum in Flower
wood engraving 19.5 x 13.5 cm

1925 On Tobacco
wood engraving

1925 The Woodland Ride
oil on board 25 x 22 cm
Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury, UK

1925 Threshing
wood engraving

c1925 Bristol Docks
pencil and watercolour 29.8 x 37.5 cm

c1925 Two Figures in an Interior
wood engraving 12.3 x 11.5 cm

1925 Directions to the Housemaid For Directions to Servants by the Rev. Jonathan Swift DD, Published by the Golden Cockerel Press:

1925 wood engraving 6 x 5.5 cm

1925 wood engraving 5.2 x 5.4 cm

1925 wood engraving 6 x 5.5 cm

1925 wood engraving 4 x 4 cm

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