One Of Britain's Greatest Painters Gets The Show He Deserves

Paul Nash, Tate Britain ★★★★★

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 13 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

One Of Britain's Greatest Painters Gets The Show He Deserves Paul Nash, Tate Britain 5
Ashen faced medics stretcher a wounded colleague, framed by a bright sky.

The sun rises over a battlefield; there are no people present just broken tree stumps as the last vestiges of relentless war. This is one of Paul Nash's famous paintings of war, a genre he's well known for.

But there's much more to Nash than simply his war efforts, and this exhibition tries to capture his life and career in all its diversity.

The sun highlights the aftermath of battle, with no people present.

We start with a work that clearly owes a lot to William Blake — we even thought it was a Blake at first. A bird-man, signifying evil, swoops down to attack an angel in the darkness. This is followed by many other smaller works depicting night scenes; Nash was a master at capturing the inky blackness of night — whether it be pyramids, a forest or the silhouette of a woman at a cliff edge.

It's not long before we're plunged headlong into war: trenches illuminated by exploding shells, downed planes on fire and a never ending sea of broken chunks of fighter jets in a plane graveyard.

Things take a turn for the surreal as a sunflower and solar eclipse become one.

In one truly arresting work, ashen faced medics carry a wounded colleague across the battlefield. Everything is grey or brown, except for the sky which is all sickly yellows and greens.

What this exhibition does very well is take us on Nash's journey as an artist. We see that he was equally skilled at painting a lush garden and the sea covered with jagged ice floes.

This work looks almost abstract as ice floats on the water's surface.

In his later career, Nash's relationship with fellow artist Eileen Agar led him to become much more abstract and surreal, resulting in a work where a tiled wall can be found in a hay field. One favourite surreal work of ours is the blending of a sunflower with a solar eclipse.

Nash tried his hand at so many different styles of painting, and managed to produce brilliant works in each one. He is one of Britain's greatest painters, and one who doesn't get enough credit. This show should grant him the attention he deserves.

Paul Nash is on at Tate Britain from 26 October-5 March. Tickets are £16.50 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at Tate Britain is the Turner Prize, a vast improvement on the last edition.

Over at Tate Modern is the fantastic Philippe Parreno installation in the Turbine Hall.

Last Updated 25 October 2016