Sunday, November 10, 2013

Paul Nash War Artist

Paul Nash 1889 - 1946
We are making a New World
Oil on canvas
711 x 914 mm
Imperial War Museum, London

Nash was an official British war artist in the two great conflicts of the twentieth century: 1914-1918; and 1939 - 1945

At this time Nash was an rtist involved in the Symbolist movement

The biting satire of the title of the image above is clearly evident from this work and others by Nash executed at this time

In light of subsequent events, the satire is quite prophetic

In the image below we see the reality of the horrific damage of war this time in Inverness Copse in Belgium (near Ypres) where two bombed out abandoned British tanks can be seen

Paul Nash 1889 - 1946
Inverness Copse
Watercolour and charcoal on paper
246 x 356 mm
Imperial War Museum, London

In war  paintings we think of the horrendous loss of life first and foremost. As it should be.

However one might think that the destruction to the country landscape was of no moment

However as a distinguished landscape painter Nash knew that the landscape  destroyed was the work of over a thousand years of the labour of mankind in tilling a wild landscape to agricultural purposes.

South of the Alps, Saint Pope Pius X died in 1914 and Pope Benedict XV was elected Pope. In November 1914 he issued his first Encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum (1st November 1914) which in many ways was also quite prophetic in view of the fact that many still thought that the conflict was going to be a short war and not very different from those which had preceded it
" On every side the dread phantom of war holds sway: there is scarce room for another thought in the minds of men. The combatants are the greatest and wealthiest nations of the earth; what wonder, then, if, well provided with the most awful weapons modern military science has devised, they strive to destroy one another with refinements of horror. 
There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain. 
Who would imagine as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another, that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature, all members of the same human society? Who would recognize brothers, whose Father is in Heaven? 
Yet, while with numberless troops the furious battle is engaged, the sad cohorts of war, sorrow and distress swoop down upon every city and every home; day by day the mighty number of widows and orphans increases, and with the interruption of communications, trade is at a standstill; agriculture is abandoned; the arts are reduced to inactivity; the wealthy are in difficulties; the poor are reduced to abject misery; all are in distress."