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Books in brief: Paul Nash in Pictures

This book is a welcome reinterpretation of Nash for contemporary audiences

Following a successful trio of books on Ravilious, Mainstone Press now turns the spotlight on Paul Nash (1889-1946). Its winning format of a slim, well-illustrated hardback, lucidly designed and with informative texts addressing specific pictures, eminently suits Nash. Although there is widespread respect for this artist, James Russell argues convincingly the case for a more personal approach to his art. “We know the paintings in an academic context, but have lost sight of their humanity,” he writes. To this end, we learn more about the man—for instance, his relationship with the Surrealist Eileen Agar, although Russell mistakenly assumes this was over by July 1936. In fact, Agar continued to see Nash intermittently through the war years, and remained for him a potent source of inspir­ation and distraction. Russell’s crisp ­narration of the salient facts of Nash’s life and inner impulses leans heavily towards the biographical and effectively deploys quotations from his letters. He also has provocative things to say about the unexpected presence of Old Masters in Nash’s images. There is an enjoyable mix of familiar with lesser-known paintings and this book is a welcome reinterpretation of Nash for contemporary audiences.

Paul Nash in Pictures: Landscape and Dream, James Russell, Mainstone Press, 48pp, £25 (hb)

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 238 September 2012