Paul NASH (1889–1946)


106 Banbury Road, Oxford

Paul Nash was born in 1889, the son of William Harry Nash, barrister and recorder of Abingdon. He attended St Paul’s School and eventually entered the Slade School of Fine Art where his contemporaries were Gertler and Nevinson. He was especially drawn to landscape painting and the personification of nature. In 1912, soon after leaving the Slade School, he created striking images of Wittenham Clumps near Wallingford where he found the combination of landscape, history, magic and form to be a compelling inspiration.

During service at Ypres in the First World War, he was invalided home as a result of an accident. When he returned to the front, after Passchendaele, it was as an official war artist. The stark and powerful works he created made his name and are held by the Imperial War Museum, one of which is the famous Menin Road. In the inter-war years he became established as an English watercolourist of great individuality and began to develop his distinctive studies of trees; especially beech woods. He was a pioneering modernist who experimented with abstract art and surrealism.

He became a distinguished essayist, writing for the Architectural Review, Country Life and other journals. His Dorset Shell Guide, one of the first to be commissioned for the Betjeman series, shows his skill in interpreting the lineaments of the landscape. In 1933 he founded Unit One with Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and others. He was president of the Society of Industrial Artists and on the committee of the first International Surrealist Exhibition. He designed fabrics, posters (e.g. for Shell-Mex), endpapers and book illustrations.

In 1939 he moved to Oxford to set up the Arts Bureau for War Service and soon found himself appointed again as an official war artist, first by the Air Ministry and then by the Ministry of Information. His painting Totes Meer (Tate Gallery) depicts a sea of shattered German planes at the Cowley dump. In 1940 after temporary accommodation in Beaumont Street and Holywell he found a home in the ground-floor flat at 106 Banbury Road (below). He was by then in failing health due to chronic asthma, and the garden there became a focus of great interest to him and was the inspiration for his symbolic sunflower paintings.

106 Banbury Road

He died while on a short visit to Boscombe near Bournemouth in July 1946 and is buried at Langley in Buckinghamshire where his family had their roots.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Myfanwy Piper, Rev. Andrew Causey

The plaque was unveiled at 106 Banbury Road, Oxford on 14 July 2007 by Dr Timothy Wilson, Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum.

Nash plaque


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