Lot 11
  • 11

Paul Nash

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Paul Nash
  • Path
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 72.5 by 49.5cm.; 28½ by 19½in.
  • Executed in 1922.


Mayor Gallery, London
Leicester Galleries, London, where acquired by J.S. Sykes, 1935, and thence by descent to the present owner


London, Leicester Galleries, Watercolours and Drawings by Paul Nash, 1932, cat. no.35.


Margot Eates, Paul Nash, The Master of the Image, John Murray, London, 1973, p.116 (as Path in a Wood);
Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, cat. no.336, p.377, illustrated pl.213.


Original canvas. There is very slight surface dirt visible upon extremely close inspection. There is a single fine diagonal line of craquelure visible to the centre of the composition, visible upon very close inspection. This excepting the work appears in excellent original condition. Ultraviolet light reveals no obvious signs of fluorescence or retouching. Housed in a thick gilt frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
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Catalogue Note

Paul Nash is widely regarded as one of the most influential and forward thinking landscape artists working in Britain in the Twentieth Century. After serving as an official War Artist in the First World War, in which he created some of the most lasting and haunting images, including The Menin Road (1919, Imperial War Museum, London), Nash suddenly found himself out of place, as indeed did many young men of the period, returning home to face ‘the struggles of a war artist without a war.’ Suffering from ‘War Strain’ he and his wife escaped London, eventually settling on the Sussex coast at Dymchurch, and thus beginning a return to his pre-war interest in the most English of traditions, that of landscape painting. Looking to the obvious choices of Constable, Turner and Gainsborough, it was to the lesser known watercolourists Richard Wilson, John Crome and Thomas Girtin, whose work he had been exposed to in the London flat of Edward Marsh before the war, that Nash paid the greatest attention. Painting in the Chilterns, where he and his wife stayed at the Red Lion in Whiteleaf, Nash too drew inspiration from across the Channel, and the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century developments in French landscape painting. Inspired by the sharp angularity of Cezanne’s brushwork, Nash developed his own style of formalised naturalism that became closely aligned to the developments taking place within the broader English Modernist movement of the period. These influences combined to create thickly-textured, crisp lines that were well-matched with a soft, cool, chalky palette, seen clearly in the present work.

This new found freedom, supported by growing commercial success allowed Nash a chance to explore new directions within his art, including the development of more symbolist elements within his landscapes, such as the inclusion of figures within the landscape, but perhaps more interestingly through the non-representations suggestive of a human presence. With a gentle nod towards English Romanticism, and the compositions of Palmer and Blake, Nash’s landscapes take a more contemporary approach with suggestive hints towards the sexualisation of the landscape for Nash, seen in the present work with the long, winding, penetrating path that divides the forest. The exploration of these semi-erotic feelings towards the natural landscape became a continued source of interest to Nash, aided further by his experiments in the medium of photography from 1930 onwards. These explorations towards a new, semi-abstract style, first became obvious in the beautiful landscapes of the early 1920s, and were later developed further with the onset of his interest in Cubist and eventually Surrealist-inspired compositions, often based around recurring motifs. The retreating avenue and winding path became, much like the long empty, groyne-studded beaches of Dymchurch, a means through which the artist struggled to come to terms with his battling ideals of an artist indebted to the English tradition, and his desire to be amongst the leading voices within a new Modernist movement in Britain. These conflicting tensions and ideals are captured in the delicate, confident handling of the paint in the present work.

Acquired in 1935 from the Leicester Gallery, Nash’s primary London Gallery during his lifetime, the work was bought by J.S. Sykes, the noted inter-war collector of English furniture, clocks and barometers. This strikingly modernist picture formed a rather stark departure from his usual collecting habits (including works by Canaletto and Guardi), and was bought to decorate the walls of his children’s playroom at 35 Avenue Road, St John’s Wood (now the residence of the Sri Lankan Ambassador in London).