John Nash (artist)
|Born||John Northcote Nash
11 April 1893
|Died||23 September 1977
|Known for||painting, engraving, illustration|
|Notable work(s)||The Cornfield, Over the Top|
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy Christine Kulenthal|
|Elected||Founder member of The London Group|
John Northcote Nash CBE RA (11 April 1893 – 23 September 1977) was a British painter of landscape and still-life, wood-engraver and illustrator, particularly of botanic works. He was the younger brother of Paul Nash.
Nash was born in London, the younger son of lawyer William Harry Nash who served as recorder of Abingdon. His mother came from a family with a naval tradition; she was mentally unstable and died in a mental asylum in 1910. In 1901 the family moved to Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire. His younger brother Paul Nash also became an artist; his sister Barbara Nash became a gardener.
He was educated at Langley Place in Slough and afterwards at Wellington College, Berkshire. He particularly enjoyed botany, but was unsure which career path to take. At first he worked as a newspaper reporter for the Middlesex and Berkshire Gazette, in 1910. His brother became a student at the Slade School of Art the same year, and through his brother, Paul met Claughton Pellew and Dora Carrington. John was persuade to concentrate on art too and in 1913 he exhibited landscapes with his brother at the Dorien Leigh Galleries in London. He was invited to join The London Group and the Friday Club.
John Nash had no formal art training, but was encouraged by his brother to develop his abilities as a draughtsman. His early work was in watercolour and included Biblical scenes, comic drawings and landscapes. A joint exhibition with Paul at the Dorien Leigh Gallery, London, in 1913 was successful, and John was invited to become a founder-member of the London Group in 1914. He was an important influence on the work of the artist Dora Carrington (with whom he was in love), and some of her works have been mistaken for his in the past.
First World War and war artist
His health initially prevented him enlisting at the outbreak of the First World War. In 1914 he began painting in oils. In 1915 he joined Harold Gilman in Robert Bevan's Cumberland Market Group and in May that year exhibited with Gilman, Charles Ginner and Robert Bevan at the Goupil Gallery.
From November 1916 to January 1918 he fought in World War I in the Artists Rifles, the unit that his brother had joined in 1914 before taking a commission in the Hampshire Regiment. He served as a sergeant at the battles of Passchendaele and Cambrai. On the recommendation of his brother, Paul worked as an official war artist from 1918. Works from his period include his painting Over the Top, held by the Imperial War Museum, and The Cornfield, held by the Tate Gallery.
Nash began painting in oils with the encouragement of Harold Gilman, whose meticulous craftsmanship influenced his finest landscapes such as The Cornfield (1918; London, Tate). The Cornfield was the first painting Nash completed that did not depict the theme of war. The picture with its ordered view of the landscape and geometric treatment of the corn stooks prefigures his brother Paul's Equivalents for the Megaliths. John said that he and Paul used to paint for their own pleasure only after six o'clock, when their work as war artists was over for the day. Hence the long shadows cast by the evening sun across the middle of the painting.
His most famous painting is Over the Top (oil on canvas, 79.4 x 107.3 cm), now hanging in the Imperial War Museum, London. It is an image of the counter-attack on Welsh Ridge on 30 December 1917, during which the 1st Battalion Artists Rifles left their trenches and pushed towards Marcoing near Cambrai. Of the eighty men, sixty-eight were killed or wounded during the first few minutes. Nash was one of the twelve spared by the shell-fire, and painted this picture three months later.
Nash married Carrington's friend Dorothy Christine Kühlenthal in May 1918. She was the daughter of a German chemist who had settled in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, and had studied at the Slade. Their only child, William, was born in 1930; he was killed in a car accident in 1935, aged 4.
From 1918 to 1921, Nash lived at Gerrard's Cross, with summer expeditions to the Chiltern Hills and Gloucestershire. In 1919 he became a member of the New English Art Club, and in 1921 he became art critic for The London Mercury.
He moved to Meadle, near Princes Risborough, also in Buckinghamshire, in 1921, which remained his permanent home until 1944. He continue to make frequent trips, particular to the valley of the River Stour in Essex and Suffolk, where he bought a summer cottage.
In 1923 he became a member of the Modern English Water-colour Society. In 1923 he worked in Dorset; in 1924 in Bath and Bristol. From 1924 to 1929 he taught at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art (Oxford). In 1927, he wrote and illustrated a book on Poisonous Plants. From 1934 to 1940 he taught at the Royal College of Art in London, working on wood engravings, lithographs, etc. In 1939 he visited Gower, near Swansea - the first of many visits to Gower and other parts of Wales.
After World War I, Nash's efforts went mainly into painting landscapes. Emotions, however, concerning the war continued to linger for many years; and this was depicted in his landscape painting. This is particularly evident in The Moat, Grange Farm, Kimble, oil on canvas, exhibited in 1922. In this brooding landscape the trees and their tendril-like branches envelope the entire picture plane.The dark subtle colours and evening light give the painting a claustrophobic atmosphere. This painting, completed a few years after the war, is characterised by a sense of bleak desolation that suggests the profound introspection that for many followed the devastation of the war. Although he had a great love of nature Nash often used natural subjects to convey powerful and sensitive thoughts concerning the human condition.  He was close friends with the writer Ronald Blythe, who dedicated his best-selling book Akenfield to the artist.
In addition to his painting abilities John Nash was also an accomplished printmaker. He was a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers (1920). He produced woodcuts and wood engravings first as decorations to literary periodicals, and then increasingly as illustrations for books produced by the private presses; these include Jonathan Swift’s Directions to Servants (Golden Cockerel Press, 1925) and Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheard's Calendar (Cresset Press, 1930). A particular interest in botanical subjects can be instanced in this period by his illustrations to Gathorne-Hardy’s Wild Flowers in Britain (Batsford 1938). 
He started World War II in 1939 in the Observer Corps, moving in 1940 to the Admiralty 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.
He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1940 and a full member in 1951. He became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1964. His retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1967 was the first for a living painter.
He suffered from severe arthritis in later years. His wife died in 1976; they had been married for over 58 years. Nash died on 23 September 1977, in Colchester. They were buried at St Andrew's, Wormingford, Essex.
- Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
- Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
- Royal Academy of Arts Online Catalogue
- National Museum of Serbia,Belgrade
- Tate Gallery, London, UK
- Tate Gallery Archive, London, UK
- The Faringdon Collection at Buscot Park, Oxfordshire, UK
- Victoria Art Gallery, Bath, U.K.
- Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
- Haycock, A Crisis of Brilliance (2009), chapter 5
- Barry Gregory. A History of The Artists Rifles. Pen & Sword. 2006. p.176.
- John Nash 1893-1977 Published in The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London, 1964,11 by Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin.
- Sir John Rothenstein, John Nash, London:MacDonald, 1983
- Ronald Blythe, ‘Nash, John Northcote(1893–1977)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 26 June 2014
- Blythe, Ronald. John Nash's Cats. (2003. Liverpool: Wood Lea) ISBN 0-9543185-2-8
- Colvin, Clare. John Nash Book Designs. (1986. Colchester: The Minories) ISBN 0-948252-01-4
- Freer, Allen. John Nash: The Delighted Eye. (1993. London: Ashgate) ISBN 0-85967-958-6 (hard) ISBN 1-85928-000-5 (paper)
- Greenwood, Jeremy, ed. The Wood Engravings of John Nash. A Catalogue of the Wood Engravings, Early Lithographs, Etchings and Engravings on Metal (1987. Liverpool: Wood Lea)
- Haycock, David Boyd. A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. (2009. London, Old Street Publishing) ISBN 978-1-905847-84-6.
- John Nash. (British Artists of Today, 11.) (1925. London: Fleuron)
- Lewis, John. John Nash: The Painter as Illustrator. (1978. Godalming: Pendomer) ISBN 0-906267-00-5 ISBN 0-920538-01-0
- Nash, John. English Garden Flowers. (1948. London: Duckworth)
- Packer, William. "John Nash and Over the Top." The Jackdaw, (December/January 2006)
- Lascelles,Venetia John Nash in Meadle 1922-1939 (2006. Privately Published)
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- Royal Academy
- Tate Gallery
- Tate Gallery Archive
- John Nash at Imperial War Museum Collection Search. Accessed 30 June 2012.
- John Nash Online, Artcyclopedia
- Modern British Painters-John Nash Biography
- John Nash in Wormingford - V&A Museum