Paul Nash

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Paul Nash was one of the finest English landscape painters of his generation who utilized his harrowing experiences of being at the front line during World War I and capturing them in a beautiful tragic manner into paintings. He was the official artists present during both the World Wars and managed to capture one hauntingly beautiful painting after another which was deep in their depictions of destruction, strength and bravery – everything Nash experienced firsthand being there. Nash created some of the most devastating war landscapes ever seen; they were epic in scale and very very realistic. In many ways it was Nash lashing out at the insurmountable loss of life and nature’s destruction of beautiful landscapes which Nash witnessed. He came to view himself as a messenger of war, the vessel through which people were able to see the destruction and chaos during both the wars.

Paul Nash was born in 1889 in London into an affluent family, his father was a wealthy barrister and his younger brother was John Nash who would also go on to become a successful artist in his own right. Both the Nash brothers had some very successful exhibitions together. After failing the Naval Entrance exam, Nash enrolled in St Paul’s School and developed a keen interest in art. Nash also put his skills to test in writing poetry and plays which were well received. Apart from being a superb painter Nash was also an expert wood-engraver, book illustrator, poet, designer and writer. Later on in his life he became a well regarded art critic as well. Nash’s work was embedded in deep rich water colors, oils, and photography. For him everything was an inspiration be it books, films, music, places, people, and exhibitions. Even before he embarked on his journey as an official war artist, he had already established a name for himself.  During the war not only were his artistic talents very visible but his strengths as a writer as well. Some of his letters to his loved ones back home, written from the French trenches, showcase a pure poet’s soul. It took a while for him to fully comprehend the haunting beauty of the battle raged landscape which stood before home. For Nash it was beautiful, deadly and powerful at the same time. In the beginning Nash wrestled with the idea of painting what he was witnessing in a light manner, there is a strong usage of bright colors and vibrant strokes. Soon the irony hit Nash and he started painting as he saw things, colors became darker, the strokes became harder and fiercer as if he was trying to capture the depravity and destruction in every stroke.

His iconic masterpiece the Totes Meer showcased a vast landscape wrecked by a German aircraft. The painting shows the dead of the night and a massive orange landscape heaped in different shards and metal pieces of an aircraft sprawled across everywhere. It is almost as if Paul Nash is berating the aircraft for destroying the beauty of the landscape. Despite his harrowing experience, his experience as the official artist of both the wars would result in some of the best landscapes the world has ever seen.

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