A NEW exhibition at Warwickshire’s Compton Verney Art Gallery will explore the work of 20th century artist John Nash.
The Landscape of Love and Solace surveys the life and creativity of one of Britain’s most prolific artists, with wood engravings, line-drawings, lithographs, watercolours, and some of Nash’s most famous paintings, including Over the Top and The Cornfield.
In 1916, Nash enlisted and served in the First World War with the Artists Rifles. His experience inspired one of his greatest paintings, Over the Top, which depicts British soldiers counter-attacking at Welsh Ridge, Marcoing, during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. Of the 80 men in his company, 68 were killed or wounded in the first few minutes. Nash was one of just 12 who survived.
Also, in the exhibition is The Cornfield, which depicts a peaceful landscape. However, the long shadows cast by the evening sun indicate Nash would only paint for his own pleasure after 6pm, when his work as a war artist was over for the day. The painting was also intended as a form of ‘thanksgiving to survival’ of the Great War.
Loans are supported by the Weston Loan Programme which is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.
Nash again served as an official war artist during the Second World War and a selection of his works from this era of his career also feature in the exhibition.
In the aftermath of both wars, Nash found solace in the different landscapes where he lived and worked, from Buckinghamshire and the nearby Chilterns to the bucolic splendour of the Stour valley, interlinking Essex and Suffolk.
The Landscape of Love and Solace also contextualises Nash’s relationship with his wife Christine Kuhlenthal and his passion for gardening.
The artist became renowned in the horticultural world as a judge at Chelsea Flower Show and passed on his skills and knowledge at the Royal College of Art and Flatford Mill field studies centre in Suffolk.
A number of his botanical studies can be seen for the first time, having not been publicly displayed prior to the exhibition’s original opening at Towner Eastbourne back in May.
Gallery director Julie Finch said: “Compton Verney is a place where nature and environment meet art and creativity, so in these respects, I think it is an ideal place for an exhibition devoted to one of the country’s leading botanic artists.
“After seeing the exhibition, I hope people will be inspired to explore our 120 acres of magnificent Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland to make their visit a complete experience; one that I like to think Nash himself would have thoroughly enjoyed.”