The Garden at Wood Lane House, Iver Heath, 1912 by Paul Nash
- Acquired directly from the artist’s exhibition in 1914;...
- 13.50 x 9.76 ins
34.29 x 24.79 cms
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Nash’s early watercolours of summer trees and gardens are amongst his most obviously romantic, though the frequent absence of figures often gives them an air of melancholy or mystery. Eric Ravillious, another significant British watercolourist from the first half of the century, and one who was taught by Nash whilst a student at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s, used the same conceit to similar effect throughout his foreshortened career. Though an enigmatic impression is less obvious in this particular work, the art historian Andrew Causey wrote that the ‘wheeling birds over many of Nash’s landscapes are his emblems of freedom and release from the uncertainty and changeability of life.’ Describing this period of his artistic development in his autobiography, Outline, Nash wrote of an attempt ‘to introduce a sleeping woman’ into a landscape of a cornfield ‘but the elements would not agree. It was really a cast back to D[ante] G[abriel] R[ossetti] but my nostalgia let me in for such complicated and dangerous processes of elimination in getting rid of the body that I learned a lesson there and then. Figures cannot easily be introduced into landscape. From the first conception they must be an integreal part of the structure of the composition.’
In a revealing letter written in August 1912 to Gordon Bottomley’s wife, Emily, Nash explained how his landscape drawings
‘are very real to me and I feel I succeed better in “finding myself” thro’ them than in any other direction. Nature is there before me, & any thoughts of how other people would express what I see there do not intrude on my mind- I go ahead my own way. But left to my imagination & invention entirely I know I sometimes became influenced by men like Rossetti [and] Blake…’
In 1933 the critic Frank Rutter would recall the ‘curious-child-like charm’ of these pre-War watercolours of English landscapes by Nash and his brother. ‘They were extraordinarily innocent in their vision and simple in their handling and construction’, he wrote, ‘yet their simplicity was not at all the kind of simplification which passed current in Paris; it was something essentially English, distantly connected with the Pre-Raphealite outlook, only pruned of their passion for irrelevant details.’
Here, Nash has depicted the gardens of his parents’ home Wood Lane House at Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire. The property had been specially built for the family in 1901 and included a plot of about an acre and a half, bordered by great elm trees and carefully planted with maturing shrubbery. The morning room, which Nash used as a studio, looked over what became known as the ‘Bird Garden’ and has been described by Roger Cardinal as ‘where it all began’ (R. Cardinal, The Landscape Vision of Paul Nash, London, 1989, p.63).
If you'd like to learn more about Paul Nash, visit the artist page.
About Paul Nash
Acquired directly from the artist’s exhibition in 1914;
Private Collection, United Kingdom
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