- Museum number
Landscape of the Vale - Moonlight; a wide landscape with low hills, with the moon and a shaft of light through the clouds. 1943
Watercolour with graphite and white chalk on beige paper
- Production date
Height: 400 millimetres (sheet irregular)
Width: 582 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present work is one of thirty drawings by Paul Nash in the British Museum's collections. Made in 1943, it illustrates a view of the Cotswolds from Madams, Gloucestershire, an area that Nash first discovered in June 1938 when visiting his friends Charles and Clare Neilson. During the following years, he returned frequently to get away from the realities of the war and the surrounding countryside became his greatest source of inspiration until his last visit in 1944. 'Landscape of the Vale, moonlight' was first exhibited in October 1943 at Nash's dealer's gallery, 'Arthur Tooth & Sons' and then in March 1948, a few years later, at the 'Paul Nash: A Memorial Exhibition' organized by the Tate Gallery and the Arts Council (no. 135).
The Second World War did not have the same impact that the first had had on the artist. Nash once again participated in the war effort but his failing health precluded him from any direct physical involvement with the Front. After her husband's death, Margaret Nash wrote about his work dating from the first half of the 1940's: 'there poured out a number of his finest civilian pictures. They show an increasing freedom of technique and a poetry in conception which seemed released in him by the great efforts of the war and his passionate interest in the exploits of the heroic ... It seemed to me as if we lived in two worlds, a restricted, drab, cruel world of war, and the lovely other world which was quite clearly on the other side of life, in which he and I were quite free in our minds and able to enjoy and perceive more clearly than ever an esoteric beauty in life, in matter, and in people' (Haycock, p. 78).
The present watercolour illustrates the Madams bathed in moonlight, a recurring theme in the works he produced at the end of his life. In the midst of the Second World War, Nash began to show a growing interest in light, particularly astral light and its effect on the land. Most of his later works are series of landscapes describing the rising of moon and sun or representations of the solstice and equinox. In 1943, he wrote a letter to his dealer, Dudley Tooth in which he comments on his early works, remarking how few of them had been night scenes and finishing with the statement: 'Now I am re-opening my research - renewing the solution of the problem of light and dark and half-light' (exh. cat. Tate Gallery, p. 33).
In the late 1930's, Nash's interest in Surrealism began to wane and, in the context of a revaluation of Romanticism in art and literature, he returned to making pure landscapes, closer to the old English tradition. This would earn him a tribute in John Piper's book 'British Romantic Artists' (1942) as an example of 'contemporary romantic painting' which later gave rise to the name Neo-Romanticism. His new approach, however, differed to that of his previous landscapes where his interest was in capturing the 'individuality' of a place. He no longer tried to find the historical landmarks or visual features that made a place unique. As he related to his friend Richard Seddon, he wanted to cease trying to control nature. Causey pointed out that the artist's new watercolours, with 'the almost abstract way in which the pools of colour form themselves' and the relinquishment of the foregrounds that 'link the painter almost intimately with the subjects' (Tate exhibition catalogue, p. 32-33) support Nash's statement.
- Andrew Causey, 'Paul Nash', Oxford 1980.
- Margot Eates, 'Paul Nash', 1973, p.134
- David Boyd Haycock, 'Paul Nash: Watercolours 1910-1946', exh. cat. Piano Nobile, London, 2014.
- 'Paul Nash: Paintings and Watercolours', exh. cat. Tate Gallery, London, 1975.
- John Piper, 'Romantic British Artists', 1942.
[This entry was written by Catherine Boël, Anne Christopherson Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings, December 2016.]
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1943 Oct, London, Arthur Tooth & Sons
1948, London, Tate Gallery, Paul Nash Memorial exhibition, no.135
2001 May - July, Manchester, Lowry Art Gallery, 'Unseen Landscapes'
2001-2 Nov-Jan, Eastbourne, Towner Art Gallery,'Unseen Landscapes'
2007-8 Nov-Mar, London, BM, Recent Acquisitions Part II, no cat.
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased by the donors from Spink in June 1991 (XXc Paintings no.53) for £12,500; previously sold Sotheby's 2 May 1990 for £7,700. According to Spink's, it had been sold by Arthur Tooth & Son in 1943 to Norman J.Miller, whence to Vincent Massey.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number