John Nash in WW2

At the beginning of the Second World War Nash served in the Observer Corps, moving to the Admiralty in 1940 as an official war artist with the rank of Captain in the Royal Marines. He was promoted acting major in 1943, and relinquished his commission in November 1944.

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 John Nash – An Advanced Post, Night, 1918

There is so much written about the paintings John Nash produced for the First World War but little on the Second. In a previous blog-post I noted that John Nash and Eric Ravilious both painted docks together in 1938 and also their letters to each other on both being invited to be war artists.

In a long interview given to the Imperial War Museum on a reel-to-reel tape machine, Nash explains this time:

The First World War paintings were the result of actual vivid experience, Second World War paintings were really more commissioned and hadn’t a very war like aspect at all. 

Questioner: You were sent specifically to do a particular subject in the Second World War?

Yes I was sent to Plymouth to paint objects in the Dock Yard, and of course it’s a very beautiful dockyard and was then full of very handsome figureheads both outside in the grounds and also in some of the buildings. 

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 John Nash – Study of ‘Pump Room’, Plymouth Dock Yards.

But the trouble was there was a spy scare at the time, it was the period of the ‘phoney war’ and I was constantly being asked for my papers and in one case positively  arrested although I was dressed up as a Royal Marine Captain, and after a time this rather got me down. In one case I actually felt afraid to do any drawing and didn’t do it when the ‘Hood’ battleship came in. I thought I must go and have a look and see if anything can be done about the ‘Hood’, I was really in a state of nerves by then that I didn’t do it – I didn’t do anything at all. 

It was largely the fault of spy scares, especially amongst the dockyard ‘maties’ as they called them (men working the dockyard) who report one to the marine police on the slightest provocation. “These’s an officer there making plans” they said, I was drawing in a sketchbook you see. So at Mountbatten – the seaplane base I was arrested and marched around the camp until released by a friendly R.A.F commandant who told the officer who arrested me he got the wrong man. 

But I got rather tired of this and I decided to go on elsewhere and leave Plymouth and I went to Cardiff, where they said they had nothing for me to do and from there to Swansea. I put up in a hotel in Swansea and the Staff Officer of operations there knew something of my work and knew something about me and he came out straight away to see me at the hotel and said “we don’t like you to be in this hotel (I won’t mention it) on account of security reasons, we’ll find you somewhere else to go to” and they installed me in a delightful hotel in Mumbles. But I had a very good time at Swansea because they had a awful lot to do at Swansea and were quite prepared to welcome official War Artists as a sort of additional pleasurable occupation. He kept thinking up things for me to draw and sending cars around to take you here and there, it was really very pleasant.

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 John Nash – HMS Oracle at Anchor

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 John Nash – Study for HMS Oracle at Anchor

I was taken up to draw a very big merchant ship which have been toed up one of the rivers there and split in half by a bomb I think… I drew this thing high and dry on the mud and then went again with the Naval numbers to see her dragged off the mud by seven tugs and then went in a car with them and drew her as she was being toed Triumphantly down the river by one tug by then. 

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John Nash –  Bristol Channel, with Tug Boat in the distance.

When we came back from this trip up and down the Bristol Channel we tied up in the dockyard and everybody got ready to have a (party) changed their clothes and the port was bought out and having a nice sort of evening when there was a ‘Purple Air Alarm’ and we went out on deck to see what was happening and there was a terrific explosion and everybody fell flat on the deck and the bomb landed at the end of the dock. 

After that the number one officer said “I must go out and see what the Captain is doing, I think he’s gone out firefighting” ‘cause fires had started in the dock and I said “well I’ll come too.” And we spent the whole night- up to three o’clock in the morning – firefighting, dragging hoses about and what is really illustrated in that painting there.

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 John Nash – Study for A Dockyard Fire

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 John Nash – A Dockyard Fire.

(I was) drawing in a detached way, but didn’t seem much to be like war, not that I am a fire-eater in any way. It seemed to be rather (like a) peace time occupation in the middle of a war. 

The pictures that come from the Second World War were observational documents much in the style of the Recording Britain project. During WW1 Nash was a young man but by the time of WW2 he was in his late forties and the army were less interested in giving him an active brief and they refused him opportunities to serve with the troops overseas. It maybe that the pictures Nash did for the Second World War became detached and stylishly posed but have little might or drama to interest the museums and thus also the public too.

I gave it up. I got tired of the whole thing and gave it up. I asked the Royal Marines Office to get me a job which was not an artist’s job, and so I was sent to Rosyth. It was an absolute change of life and I didn’t do any painting, really, for four years. 

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Destroyer in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Destroyer in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Scrap’

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 John Nash – Scrap

 John Nash – French Submarine “La Creole” in Swansea Dock, 1940

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 John Nash – Convoy Scene

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Small Vessel in Dry Dock’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘From the Wheelhouse’

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 John Nash – Study for ‘Timber’

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 John Nash – Study for Arming a Merchantman

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John Nash would be able to return to his war work in 1947 when making an illustration for the Handbook of Printing by W S Cowell. He was illustrating The Harbours of England by John Ruskin. The figure head from the ship is clearly taken from Study of ‘Pump Room’, Plymouth Dock Yards.

IWM –  Nash, John Northcote (Oral history)
Ronald Blythe – John Nash at Wormingford p12
W S Cowell – Handbook of Printing, 1947

The Art in Bawden’s Home

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The art that Edward Bawden filled his home with were mostly the pictures of the friends he made during his life; from Paul Nash to his son Richard.

Some of these works can be seen from the photographs taken when Bawden died, but also from the many watercolours of his house in Saffron Walden as seen in last week’s post.

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 The Living Room, 2 Park Lane, Saffron Walden, 1985

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This is a picture of the corridor and a cupboard full of glasses and pottery. Bawden’s wife Charlotte Epton studied pottery with the Leach’s in Cornwall so it is likely it is part of her collection. To the right there is a print of Kew by Bawden.

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 Edward Bawden – The Palmhouse, Kew Gardens, 1950

It was said Bawden’s wife Charlotte had a flair for decoration at Brick House but with his move to Saffron Walden after her death the house on Park Lane was decorated to his own tastes. Bawden used his reserve of Wallpaper stock to decorate many of the rooms in 2 Park Lane, Saffron Walden.

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As shown with the various views of the sitting room in the photos and watercolours, the walls were lined with shelves of studio pottery and framed pictures.

In the photo above on the wall above the table in the centre is a large print by John Norris Wood ‘Country Garden Butterflies’ of a poise of flowers with butterflies around it. It turns out that within Edward’s lifetime there was a Eric Ravilious on the wall of a Harlequin but on his death Edward left it to Anne Ullman, Eric Ravilious’s daughter who later sold it to the Fry Gallery. ♠ When Bawden died and the Harlequin removed it was replaced with the John Norris Wood that Bawden much have also owned.

 Eric Ravilious – Harlequin, 1928

This Ravilious watercolour was part of the preparatory work for the commission of a mural for the Refectory at Morley College, London.

To the left of that image at the top is a set of four framed wood engravings by Paul Nash from the Nonesuch Press book ‘Genesis’, 1924, printed at the Curwen Press. How Bawden came to own them is quoted below:

The Curwen Press used Bawden’s patterns for wallpapers and were the earliest designs printed from linocuts by Edward Bawden. Paul Nash offered him support at the Royal College and exchanged five of his engravings for five of Bawden’s wallpaper patterns.

Below the four ‘Genesis’ wood engravings is an engraving of ‘The Bay’, 1923. Through the archway and the Hoya Carnosa, hanging below the light and above the chair is a print by Edward’s son Richard, of the Aldeburgh Martello Tower.

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 Paul Nash – The Bay, 1923

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 Paul Nash – Let the earth bring forth the creatures, 1924

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 John Norris Wood – Country Garden Butterflies

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 Richard Bawden – The Martello Tower, Aldeburgh

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In the photograph above, framed on the wall is Edward’s large print of ‘The Pagoda, Kew Gardens’ looking bold with it’s bloody red roof is provides a strong colour scheme for the room and the Persian red carpets and would be opposite the print of ‘The Palmhouse’, as pictured above.

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 Edward Bawden – The Pagoda, Kew Gardens, 1963

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Here in this room the walls are lined with the wallpaper Edward Bawden worked with John Aldridge on called ‘Grid and Cross / Waffle (Green)’, printed by Cole and Son Ltd.

The framed pictures are wood engravings by Eric Ravilious. These where for the 1933 Golden Houses Press publication of ‘The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta’ by Christopher Marlowe.

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 Eric Ravilious – Barabas in his Counting-house, 1933

This wood engraving was shown and for sale at the Society of Wood Engravers 14th show where the catalogue lists the print as ‘Wealthy Moore’.

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 Eric Ravilious – A charge, The cable cut, A cauldron discovered, 1933.

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 Edward Bawden – Grid and Cross & Waffle (Green), 1938 

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 Edward Bawden – Cat among Pigeons, 1986

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Pictured at the end of ‘Cat among Pigeons’ is the door to the bathroom and the stairwell to the ground floor. The pictures on the wall are a lithograph by Chagall and again, one of Bawden’s own prints. A small print of St Peter’s Basilica is in the bottom right corner of the photo. The wallpaper is ‘Wood Pigeon’ one of the Plaistow Wallpapers that was later printed by Cole and Son Ltd.

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 Marc Chagall – Donkey & the Eiffel Tower, 1954

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 Edward Bawden – Albert Bridge, 1966

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 Edward Bawden – Wood Pigeon, 1927

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In the bedroom is the portrait of Edward Bawden that his friend Phyllis Dodd painted in 1929. Dodd would marry one of Bawden’s many biographers, Douglas Percy Bliss.

In 1929 she painted a likeness of Bawden sitting stiffly in his best suit and then she made portraits of Ravilious and later still his wife. 

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 Phyllis Dodd – Edward Bawden, 1929

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In this room upon a large Victorian chest of drawers there are two oil lamps and a set of Staffordshire figurines, behind them is one of the rarer Bawden prints of ‘Grasses in a Jug’. The wallpaper is by Bawden, ‘Riviera’ from 1929.

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 Edward Bawden – Grasses in a Jug, 1967

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 Edward Bawden – Riviera, 1929

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In this room with the Chest of Drawers of the photo above to the right we can see two more of Bawden’s own prints and to the right a Mary Fedden picture that looks like a nocturnal view of her print ‘The Lamp, 1972′.

In the centre the door is opening on to Bawden’s studio.

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 Edward Bawden – Kew Palace, London, 1983

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 Edward Bawden – The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, 1956

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Here is a side view of the studio with picture racks and large artwork boards and tables to work from.

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 Edward Bawden – Roses and Rue, 1987

One of the most telling paintings is ‘Roses and Rue’. Bawden had no TV as he was profoundly deaf so most of his news came from copies of The Guardian. Painted in his studio it shows a tray of paints in the top left corner.

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† David McKitterick – Wallpapers by Edward Bawden, 1989.
Malcolm Yorke – Edward Bawden and his Circle, 2005
Bawden House Photographs c/o The Fry Gallery and Weeping Ash
♠ Art Fund – Harlequin by Eric Ravilious

Eric, John and the War.

In 1940 Eric Ravilious became one of the first official war artists. During the summer he was posted to HMS ‘Dolphin’ in Gosport, drawing the interiors of submarines and sometimes sent out to sea. He had already conceived the idea of a set of submarine lithographs intended as a children’s painting book, and in November he set to work.

The drawings inevitably lack the distinctive texture and colour of the lithographs. In this post they are set next to the finished lithographs with the colours and textures produced at W. S. Cowell Ltd over the original drawn and watercoloured pictures by Ravilious. But we must start first with his appointment as a war artist:

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 Eric Ravilious – Drawing for Commander and Periscope, 1941

Dear Ravilious,                                                         23rd December, 1939
You may have heard rumours of a scheme which is now being launched for having various phases of the war recorded by selected artists working for the Government. The Admiralty has already appointed one official whole-time artist, and you and John Nash have been selected to work for the Admiralty on a part-time basis, if you should be willing. We very much hope that the idea will appeal to you; indeed it would be a great disappointment to the Admiralty, the Ministry of Information, and, I may add, myself, if you should feel unable or unwilling to undertake work of this kind. 

If you should be willing, please let me know here as soon as you can and tell me when you could come and see me to discuss details. From our point of view, the sooner you get to work the better. Perhaps I should say that the Treasury have already approved the necessary expenditure.

Yours sincerely
            R. Gleadowe

During World War II Reginald Gleadowe was an Admiralty representative on the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

Below is a letter from fellow artist (and Ravilious’s tutor) John Nash. Nash had been a war artist in the First World War found himself being asked to become a war artist again.

My dear Eric,
  I was at the M.of l. (Ministry of Information) on Friday playing truant part of the time from College and heard from Dickey that you had been there. I don’t suppose I have anything more to report than you have they talk of sending us a ‘contract letter’ but that only deals with the finance and I have heard nothing from the Admiralty since I went there. When I was there I broached the subject of commissioned rank to Gleadowe and there seemed no difficulties. Captainships seemed as cheap as farthing buns and it seemed as if one only missed being made a Major because one had to recognize Muirhead Bone’s seniority! But I begin to doubt now if Gleadowe really has the authority to promise these insignia – we must continue to wait and see I suppose… .
  I went to College yesterday and saw most of ‘the boys’. Form was good or even above average and Percy [Horton] made a fine story of a week spent teaching the Punch artist H. M. Bateman to paint. Dickey tells me that the Army War Artists are to be dressed in War Correspondents’ uniform with W.C. on the hat band rather shaming so I’m glad you and l are in the Senior Service!

Let me know if you hear anything fresh.
Yours ever,
               John

It is fitting that they both should be chosen so early for this as a lot of the work for both of them was to be painting docks and the boats. Below are paintings each by Ravilious and Nash. They had got to know each other at the Royal College of Art, where Ravilious was a pupil and now they were both on the staff. A year before Gleadowe’s invitation, and on Nash’s recommendation they both went to sketch at Bristol Docks. They painted the same location at night, when the docks were quiet and the boats tied up.

John Nash had been much inspired by painting in Bristol, and he told Eric it was the best port in England, so they planned together a painting visit there. 

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 Eric Ravilious – Bristol Docks, 1938

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 John Nash – Nocturne: Bristol Docks’, November 1938 

The Second World War, unlike the First, was not much recorded by printmakers and the Ravilious Submarine series, perhaps the most important such work, was eventually turned down for publication by the Artists Advisory Committee.

The difference of print-making in WW1 and painting in WW2 was that in WW2 the Blitz brought the war to the artists, they could see defences, barrage balloons and blitz bomb damage while still in Britain and record it with most of their materials at hand. The paintings and drawings were recorded quickly as a reaction. In contrast to the prints made in WW1 mostly depicted life in France and Belgium on the front-lines. Works would have to be sketched out and when back in Britain, the prints made from memory and worked up from sketchbook studies for a wider publication. The bridge of a month would mean that the art of WW1 was already retrospective of conditions. People living in the south of England would have been aware of defences, blacked out road signs, and the blitz.

Much of what we know from the process of the lithographic Submarine series comes from letters sent to Dickey (Edward Montgomery O’Rorke Dickey.) At the beginning of the Second World War ‘Dickey’ was seconded from the Ministry of Information and, from 1939 to 1942, was secretary of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He was a full member of the committee from 1942 to 1945. During this period he established his close relationship with Eric Ravilious.

Bank House, Castle Hedingham, Essex                      24th January 1940.
Dear Dickey,
The Curwen Press have sent me an estimate for the lithographs I spoke to you about – to do six, in five workings each about 15″ x 22″ will cost £36. This seems reasonable to me, if your committee think the idea a good one. Paints and materials will bring the total expenses to, say, £40; so that the choice is actually between £4 or £40, whatever they feel inclined to do. I very much want to do some lithography if that is possible, also it will make a change of medium. Will they call on us to begin work soon, do you think? It is now I see just a month today since the Admiralty wrote about this appointment, and nothing more seems to have happened since then. ♠

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 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #1, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #1, Lithograph, 1941

HMS Dolphin, Gosport, Hans.                                        2nd August 1940.
…At the moment I am living here having been to sea at different times for the last two weeks in the submarine, trying to draw interiors. Some of them may be successful I hope, but conditions are difficult for work. It is awfully hot below when they dive and every compartment small and full of people at work. However this is a change from destroyers and I enjoy the state of complete calm after the North Sea – there is no roll or movement at all in submarines, which is one condition in their favour, apart from the smell, the heat and noise. The scene is extraordinarily good in a gloomy way. There are small coloured lights about the place and the complexity of a Swiss clock…

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 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #2, Lithograph, 1941

Dear Dickey
…Neither Curwen, Ripley, Murray or Lane can produce these submarine pictures, for all sorts of reasons, so I’ve not abandoned the idea of a book and yesterday went to see the lithographic printers at Ipswich. They will produce the things simply as pictures in a small edition for £100; and if I can manage it this shall be done…
The Leicester Gallery say that they are willing to sell the lithographs if I produce them, so that with luck (if they are not bombed meanwhile) it may pay the expenses. ♣ 

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 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Lithograph, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Lithograph, 1941

The final lithographs were printed in a small run in 1941. In 1996 a limited edition reprinting of 375 was made. Ravilious died in 1942, he was reported missing, presumed dead while on flight over Iceland. He was 39 years of age.

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 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941

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 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Lithograph, 1941

Had Ravilious’s idea of a children’s book proceeded it is hard to tell if it would have been just outlines of the men and nautical instruments or with the base watercolour and pencil drawings that he used for the lithographs. Either-way a child could paint over with their own colours. That is really what the printers at

W. S. Cowell Ltd did with the lithographs anyway.

Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist – By Helen Binyon
The Modern Spirit in British Printmaking, 1910-1950. Garton & Cooke, 1987
Submarine Dream – Lithographs and Letters – The Camberwell Press, 1996
Avant-garde British printmaking, 1914-1960

A Window in Bucks

This week’s post all started with a book token that I found being used as a bookmark. It was of the John Nash painting ‘A Window in Bucks’. 

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 John Nash – A Book Token featuring A Window in Bucks

The painting was a view from John Nash’s house ‘Lane’s End’ in Meadle, Buckinghamshire. John Nash and his wife Christie moved to the village in 1922 and stayed until 1939. During his time there many friends visited including Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman and his brother Paul Nash.

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 Eric Ravilious, Barnett Freedman and John Nash photographed by Christie Nash in April 1940. †

Meadle is a hamlet in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located to the north of the village of Monks Risborough and near Little Kimble. Today the population of Meadle is about 75. A village of barn conversions and very few new housing, most of the properties are farmhouses and labourers’ cottages build in traditional red clay brick with thatched roofs. A small stream rises in the village and ultimately joins the Thames.

The view of the book token is taken from the window at Meadle, The same view can be seen from the painting below.

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 John Nash – Winter Landscape

 

The field line of this painted study line up to the bookplate above, the shape of the hedges and the three colours in the fields too. 

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 John Nash – Window in Bucks, auto-lithograph, 1928.

In this lithograph the view out of the window is to the left-side, but still lines up with hedgerows today. What some have called ‘willow style fencing’ is actually a traditional hedgerow of what is most likely Hawthorn. 

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 John Nash’s home ‘Lane’s End’, Meadle, Buckinghamshire.

One of the upstairs windows at the front of the house would have been where the paintings where made as the hedgerows in the painting line up to the hedges and field layouts today.

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 Paul Nash – Lupins and Cactus, 1928

The painting  Lupins and Cactus is believed to have been painted by Paul Nash while staying at Meadle in 1928. The windows fit the style painted in the house and the flowers are likely to have been grown by John in the garden.

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 John Nash – The Garden under Snow

The Garden under Snow is believed to be a view from the back of the house and the garden of Lane’s End

Ravilious: The Watercolours By James Russell

John Nash – The Countryman

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The Countryman magazine was founded in 1927 by J. W. Robertson Scott, who edited it from his office in Idbury in rural Oxfordshire for the first 21 years, since then it has had many editors but is still going today. In the Spring issue of 1958 it described itself as “A quarterly non-party review and miscellany of rural life and work for the English-speaking world”. Its editor at that time was Johnathan Cripps.

The magazines are amazing things to look in as you never know what you will read, from blacksmiths who make Dragon shaped door locks to the development of archaeology and farming. The size is also charming, being A5 it slips in a bag better than most modern magazines. 

In 1959 the magazine was published quarterly, all four of the covers were designed by John Nash. Nash at this time lived in Bottengoms, a house in Wormingford, Essex, near Colchester. He taught botanical illustration at the Colchester School of Art in the 60s and 70s. He is most famous for his country paintings and was at the forefront of the revival of British landscape painting.

These copies with the John Nash covers are not that rare but many booksellers online have not noticed the illustrator.  

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Nash’s most important association with The Countryman was over the four cover designs he did for their 1959 issues. Prior to 1959 the covers had always tabled the list of contents, but Cripps wrote to Nash in May 1958 explaining that for some time he had been investigating the possibility of introducing an illustration onto the cover, and he invited Nash’s comments on the matter. Obviously this was an important step for such a well established periodical and one that could win or lose a lot of readers. John Lewis was also asked to come in on the project to advise on the design and layout of the new covers. It was decided that Nash would design the first four covers and Cripps wrote to him accordingly: 

… to confirm that you will prepare four roughs with some relation to the seasons, to occupy approximately the top half of the space on our cover now filled with the titles of articles and their authors. For these I would pay a total sum of thirty guineas.

By September 1958 Nash had done four designs which he sent to John Lewis for his comments. Nash apologised that they were carried out in biro, he also pointed out that his final drawings would be twice the size in order to simplify any cross-hatching work he had to do. The drawings were sent on to Cripps who then wrote back to Nash with various suggestions. 

He liked Nash’s drawing of Skye best and he asked him if he could perhaps include some lambs in the illustration so they could use it for the first cover for Spring. Nash checked to see whether there would in fact be lambs on Skye in spring and as there were be revised his drawing accordingly. 

The drawing for Winter of a lane at Stoke-by-Nayland was also approved of, but Cripps pointed out that as this design had trees in it, it would be inappropriate to precede it with Nash’s drawing for Autumn of a wood. Nash therefore produced

another drawing for Autumn, a more seasonal one of apple-picking with a sprig of a blackberry bush across the foreground. 

Nash’s fourth drawing of a lake in Cornwall also had to be re-done because the paper for the cover was too absorbent and would not pick up the detail in his design. This he substituted with the drawing of ‘A Suffolk Stream’. 

Apart from a somewhat lengthy discussion about whether there should be a line round Nash’s illustrations or not, and a few minor revisions to the positioning of the blackberry sprig for the Autumn cover, the printing went ahead according to plan. Nash’s designs were obviously a success because from now on all The Counterman covers were illustrated. The next six were on the same deep green paper, but in the autumn of 1961 this was replaced with a bright green and the design was inset on a white background. Nash was not asked to contribute further cover designs. 

Clare Colvin – John Nash – Book Designs, p74, 1986

Eddie Marsh

Last summer I was reading ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’ by David Boyd Haycock, it is a wonderful layer-cake of young artists lives as they study at the Slade School of Art on the eve of the First World War and a book I recommend to all to read.

Many of the artists featured are supported by a patron, Eddie Marsh, who not only bought their work but he entertained them and introduced them to people in society who would advance their careers.

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Marsh was a strange and unique person. In his career as a civil servant he worked as Private Secretary to a succession of Great Britain’s most powerful ministers, particularly Winston Churchill.

He was the sponsor of the Georgian school of poets and a friend to many poets, including Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon. He was a discreet but influential figure within Britain’s homosexual community.

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 Matthew Smith – Woman Reclining, c.1925–6

Some of the money Marsh had to spend on art was the remainder of a family legacy from the death of his great-grandfather, Spencer Perceval in 1812, the only British prime minister to have been assassinated. Parliament voted to settle £50,000 on Perceval’s children (today it would be around 8 million), with additional annuities for his widow and eldest son. 100 years later and Marsh was using the money to buy art.

Although Spencer Perceval possessed six sons and six daughters, some portion of this grant drifted down to Eddie Marsh through his mother. He refused to use any of what he called ‘the murder money’ for his personal requirements; it was from this fund that he bought, with taste and knowledge, the collections with which he has now enriched the public. †

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 William Roberts – Sam Rabin vs Black Eagle, 1934

After Marsh’s death in 1953 his friends collected accounts of him and published a booklet, edited by Christopher Hassall and Denis Mathews. As it is long out of publication, I have typed up John Rothenstein’s piece on Marsh’s art collecting below. All the pictures in this post were owned by Marsh.

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 Mark Gertler – Agapanthus, 1914

John Rothenstein on Eddie Marsh

There is a serious disadvantage to an upbringing in an artist’s household. Paintings, drawings, sculpture are apt to be so ubiquitous that they may fail to excite. My father being a painter and also a collector, it seemed to me in my early years that works of art were for the most part little more than part of the furnishing of our house. It is true, however, that when I visited other houses and found dull pictures on the walls or none at all, I was aware of an almost piercing sense of bleakness. But when I first visited Eddie Marsh’s chambers at Gray’s Inn, it was with no sense of bleakness but with the consciousness of something amounting almost to a new experience that I looked at his pictures.

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 Stanley Spencer – Apple Gatherers, 1912-13

I had not come to look at his pictures; I don’t suppose I was aware that he possessed any. Like many other young men I had come, either shortly before or after leaving Oxford, to consult this benevolent oracle about the perplexing problem of how best to spend my life. I can’t recall any word of advice he gave; but I do recall, almost as clearly as though it were yesterday, the immediate fascination exercised by the pictures which hung, frame to frame, from floor to ceiling, covering every vertical space, not only of wall but of door, and, no less clearly, the kindness with which Eddie responded to the interest his pictures stirred in me. We looked at everything there was to see. And what things there were! Wilson’s Summit of Cader Idris (his bequest of which to the National Gallery, he said, lent an added pleasure to his visits there, that of choosing the place where his ghost would see it on the walls) and Blake’s Har and Heva batbing.

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 Richard Wilson – Cader Idris, 1774 (Exhibited)

But it was the contemporaries that gave me the sharpest and most pleasurable shock: the works of painters with whom I already had some acquaintance. There were the splendid Self Portrait and the The Apple-gathers by Stanley Spencer (an artist who had not yet held an exhibition), The Dancer: and Parrot Tulip’s by Duncan Grant, The Cornfeild by John Nash, a water-colour of tall trees by his brother Paul, and a lamp-lit bedroom by Gertler.

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 John Nash – The Cornfield, 1918

The spectacle of so many line examples of the work of an emerging generation of painters, displayed with such affectionate, admiring confidence strengthened the impression I had that there was a school of painting in England deserving of much more respect than most of my contemporaries were inclined to accord to it.

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 Henry Moore – Woman Seated with Hands Clasped, 1929

My visit was followed by several others, but it was not until many years later that I came to know him well, when I had the good fortune to be associated with him in the running of two institutions particularly dear to him: the Tate Gallery, of which he was a Trustee from 1937 until 1944 and Acting Chairman during 1940 and 1941, and the Contemporary Art Society, of which he was Chairman from 1937 until 1952.

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 Duncan Grant – Parrot Tulips, 1911

What made this association particularly delightful for those who had a part in it was Eddie’s attitude towards these two institutions. For him the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society were never primarily institutions at all; they were friends to be fought for, to be enriched by his generosity and, from time to.time, to be gently chided. And as such they responded to his friendship with gratitude and affection.

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 Duncan Grant – The Dancers, 1911

Eddie was not only loved at both the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society, but he reposed in them a special degree and quality of trust. He was capable of a catholicity of taste that at moments provoked his friends to wonder whether there was any work of art which he didn’t like. In his heart, however, he remained faithful to the artists the Spencer and the Nash brothers, Grant, Gertler, and their contemporaries who had first aroused in him the lust of possession.

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 Paul Nash – Elms, 1914

The works of later painters he often, as he confessed, ‘took great though often in efficacious pains to understand and enjoy’; yet he never expected art to be changeless, and he desired the Tate and the Contemporary Art Society to collect in accordance with their most imperative convictions, whether or not these happened to conform to his own.

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 Christopher Wood – Siamese Cats, 1927

The last time I saw him, on is December 1952 at the last meeting of the Society’s Executive which he attended, it had been resolved, as a tribute to his unique services, to commission a portrait of him by Graham Sutherland.

A message from the artist was read out willingly accepting the commission but regretting that he could not undertake it until the autumn of 1953. In a voice that arrested by its intense melancholy Eddie exclaimed, ‘The sands are running out’. In the silence that followed could be read his friends’ mournful recognition that he had spoken the truth. Four weeks later he was dead.

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 Stanley Spencer – Self Portrait, 1912

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 Walter Sickert – The New Bedford, 1915.

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 Cedric Morris – Breton Landscape,1927

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 Eric Ravilious – The Yellow Funnel, 1938

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 Walter Monnington – Study of a Woman, 1934

Eddie Marsh – Sketches for a composite literary portrait of Sir Edward Marsh, Lund Humphries, 1953
Paintings and Drawings from the Sir Edward Marsh Collection, The Contemporary Art Society 1953

John Nash Flower Illustrations

I recently bought a book called The Tranquil Gardener by Robert Gathorne-Hardy, it is illustrated by John Nash. These days Nash is known for his war art and being the brother of Paul Nash, but he is not as known for being a botanical illustrator and teacher. 

From the dust jacket blurb: Robert Gathorne-Hardy has been an amateur gardener for as long as he can remember. In this book he describes three gardens with which he has been intimately connected-his own, his mother’s, and that of his illustrator, John Nash-each with its different soil, its different possibilities, its own invitations and its own snubs to give. He is, moreover, a plant collector of very considerable calibre, and there is the true biographical sapor to much of his description of individual plants. The text is superbly complemented by Mr Nash’s exquisite drawings.

During the 1920s John Nash taught at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford and remained a teacher until the end of his life, inspiring many, including some of the best Kew artists. During most of the interwar years John Nash and his wife lived at Meadle in Buckinghamshire. From there both went on holidays all over England during which they filled numerous sketch books with pen, pencil and wash studies which developed into oil and watercolour compositions in their studio. Like Constable, Nash made annotations in these books about the weather on particular days.

John Nash had a great passion for plants and his technique as a plant illustrator deserves special notice as he excelled in the field. John Nash liked to use live specimen which sometimes was a problem when publishers asked for illustrations of plants which were not in season. 

He often used his garden, which was planted with a wide variety of plants such as roses, irises, gentians and hellebores. John Nash had always been interested in botany even as a child he had won a Botany Prize and, like his friend Cedric Morris, he called himself an ‘artist plantsman’.

In 1940 Nash was commissioned as an Official War Artist in the Royal Marines, a role he did not especially enjoy, preferring to paint the English landscape, which he did after the war. From 1922 Nash had made many visits to Essex and rented a summer cottage at Wormingford, near Colchester and in 1945 he and his wife bought Bottengoms Farm where they lived until they died. When in Essex Nash taught at Colchester Art School and conducted yearly plant illustration courses at Flatford Mill. As one of the founders of Colchester Art Society (and later the Society’s President) and through exhibitions of his own work, he became closely connected with the Minories Art Gallery. 

On his death he bequeathed his personal library and several of his paintings as well as the engravings recorded in this catalogue to the Gallery. Since then, the library, the paintings and most of the engravings were sold to the Tate.

John O’Connor

John O’Connor A.R.C.A. R.W.S, is today best known for his woodcuts, but during his lifetime he was also celebrated as a watercolourist. He was educated between the wars at the Royal College of Art in London under John Nash and Edward Bawden.

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 John O’Connor – Self Portrait, The Ruth Borchard Collection

A quote about Ravilious mentions O’Connor: Through his work and his teaching he became a very real influence both in design and wood engraving. One of his
students was John O’Connor. As an engraver O’Connor is an illustrator and very sensitive draughtsman. In style he is influenced by the Ravilious manner, with an emphasis on pattern and book design techniques. He has made a valuable contribution to book design through his technical experiments which include colour. O’Connor has
also brought wood engraving and other media together in the same work. These are essentially book designing experiments rather than experiments in engravings as such.

John O’Connor was was born in Leicester in 1913. In 1930 he enrolled at Leicester College of Art before moving onto the Royal College of Art in 1933. His teachers at this time were Eric Ravilious, John Nash and Robert Austin. He graduated in 1937.

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On a visit to Eric Ravilious’s home at Bank House, Castle Hedingham in Essex, O’Connor was captivated both by the directness of the wood-engraving technique, and by the simple domestic scene in which Ravilious engraved by a lamp in one corner of the room while his wife Tirzah played with their small son by the fire in another. It was due to Ravilious that O’Connor got his first commission of work aged 23, illustrating Here’s Flowers by Joan Rutter for the Golden Cockerel Press in 1937.

He taught at Birmingham and Bristol before serving in the Royal Air Force form 41-45. He arrived with the allied troops during the fall of Berlin, and sketched the ruined city. Back in England, but still in his flight lieutenant’s uniform, he met his future wife, Jeannie Tennant, who was a teacher, in Filey, North Yorkshire. They married in 1945, and spent their honeymoon cycling around the Yorkshire dales.

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 John O’Connor – Kersey Church, Suffolk

On being demobbed he illustrated two books for the Golden Cockerel Press and taught in Hastings for two years before moving to Colchester to become the head of the School of Art in 1948. He was affectionately known as ‘Joc’ to his students, using his initials. His colleagues included Richard Chopping, who designed dust jackets for the James Bond novels, his own former teacher John Nash, and Edward Bawden, one of the finest
British printmakers.

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 John O’Connor – Heron and Ducks

In 1950, O’Connor wrote and illustrated ’Canals, Barges and People’. The book had colour illustrations; wood-engravings by overprinting coloured linocuts. This was something of a revolution, as wood-engraving had till then been largely considered a black-and-white process.

The book also stood out as part of a Folk-art scene looking into the artistic past of Britain. Other writer/artists to be doing this would be Enid Marx, Barbara Jones and Noel Carrington. ’Canals, Barges and People’ was an immediate success, but only 1,000 copies were printed by Shenval Press and the colour made a reprint impractical and too expensive.

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 John O’Connor – Orange Field. Clare College, University of Cambridge

He saw his favourite painting places in Suffolk – the ponds, willows, briars and honeysuckle – disappear beneath the bulldozer and combine harvester. In 1964 O’Connor retired from teaching full time at Colchester, to concentrate on painting and engraving. He wrote various ‘How to’ books and taught part time at St Martin’s School of Art. In 1975 he and his wife, Jeannie, went to live by Loch Ken in Kirkcudbrightshire, where his love of light and water inspired his many watercolours and oil paintings. He took up a post teaching at Glasgow School of Art from 1977 to 1984.

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 John O’Connor – Chestwood Meadows, Lewisham Local History & Archives Centre

His engraving continued into yet another decade with the imaginative commission from Richard Ingrams for O’Connor to produce a monthly illustration for The Oldie magazine. These pieces – 36 of which were preserved in hard covers in People and Places – have all the sparkle and wit of the early work, and he only laid down his tools in 2001, a 65-year span which is surely unique.

John O’Connor’s last book of engravings, The Country Scene, a collection for the Whittington Press of his early and largely unknown work, was on the press when he died. As printing was about to begin, the instruction came from his hospital bed that colour was to be introduced wherever possible. Proofs were hurriedly made by his son, Mike, and taken to him, and delightedly approved days before his death.

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 John O’Connor – Little Garden in the Evening, 1947

In the 1950s and 60s, O’Connor exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery, in London, and had many exhibitions throughout Britain. His work was purchased by the Arts Council, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum and the Contemporary Art Society, as well as by several local education authorities; it can also be found in the Oslo Museum, the Zurich Museum and at New York central library. He was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1947, and, in 1974, to the Royal Watercolour Society. He was an honorary member of the Society of Wood Engravers. He retired to Stable Cottage, Danevale, Castle Douglas.

He died March 5 2004

Bibliography
1937 –  Here’s Flowers by Joan Rutter. Golden Cockerel Press
1945 – Together and Alone by Christopher Whitfield. Golden Cockerel Press
1946 – We Happy Few by Owen Rutter. Golden Cockerel Press
1950 – Canals, Barges and People by John O’Connor, reprinted 2014
1951 – An Essex Pie by T.M. Hope
1959 – A Pattern of People by John O’Connor
1967 – Landscape painting, reprinted 1977
1973 – Introducing relief printing
1971 – The Technique Of Wood Engraving
1979 – A View of Kilvert by John O’Connor. Foulis Archive Press
1989 – The Wood-engravings of John O’Connor
1990 – The Four Elements by Seamus Heaney. Whittington Press
1991 – Wood Engravings From La Vida Breve
1991 – Twins (Came with Matrix 11) by John O’Connor. Whittington Press.
1999 – People and Places by John O’Connor. Whittington Press.
2004 – The English Scene by John O’Connor. Whittington Press. 

Selected list of Exhibitions
1954 Zwemmer Media Arts, London
1955 Royal Academy of Arts, London
1973 The Minories, Colchester
1976 The Minories, Colchester
1977 Graphic Work Retrospective, Glasgow School of Art
1990 Royal Watercolour Society, Bankside, London

A History of British Wood Engraving by Albert Garrettv, 1978, 9780859360777 – p222
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/john-oconnor-38138.html
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2004/mar/20/guardianobituaries.artsobituaries

Harvesting with John Nash

Some years ago I bought a print called ‘Harvesting’ by John Nash. Years later I would buy a book illustrated by John Nash and start to see the links.

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 John Nash, The Cornfield, 1918

John Nash was born in London in 1893 and is the younger brother of Paul Nash. He was a very accomplished wood engraver and lithographer and served as an official war artist in both the World Wars. On one occasion in 1917, Nash was one of eighty men ordered to cross No-Mans-Land at Marcoing near Cambrai. Of these, only Nash and eleven men returned.

From 1924 to 1929 he taught at Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, and from 1934 to 1940 taught at the Design school at the Royal College of Art. In 1951 he was elected to the Royal Academy. After the Second World War he moved to Wormingford on the Suffolk and Essex border.

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 Adrian Bell – Men and the Fields, 1939.

It was in a local bookshop that I found a copy of a John Nash illustrated book called ‘Men and the Fields’ by Adrian Bell. It seemed to me that the lithographic cover of the book looked like his painting ‘The Cornfields’, so simple in yellow patterns. It also has a set of coloured lithographs inside too that people have been cutting out and framing.

Inside the book there are a lot of line drawings and it’s one of them that is the curiosity. Below is the Schools Print by Nash called ‘Harvesting’. It shows a typically Suffolk scene but with an unusual amount of people in the picture compared to other paintings (normally his pictures are landscape only).

As in ‘The Cornfield’ there are the hay-bails and a beautiful landscape but here the surplus farmhands are poaching for rabbits with the dogs and a couple sit romantically waiting for the threshing machine to finish, so they can bail the corn up onto a cart.

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 John Nash – Harvesting, 1948

Being a large lithograph it has a beautiful texture to the printing and only a limited number of colours could be used to print it, so it becomes rather harmonic; the men’s trousers and the skyline.

But below are some of the drawings from the 1939 ‘Men and the Fields’ nine years earlier. You likely notice they are almost the studies for the schools print, the men with the dogs, the rabbit. It’s an extrapolated version that makes up the Schools print but the elements are all to be found.

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 John Nash’s illustration for Adrian Bell’s ‘Men and the Fields’, 1939.

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 Detail of above

The link is undeniable. But to go full circle, the reissue of ‘Men and the Fields’ in paperback by Little Toller books, has ‘The Cornfields’ as the cover! Ronald Blythe also inherited John Nash’s home, Bottengoms Farm in Wormingford.

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