Paul Nash, Monster Field


‘There are places, just as there are people and objects and works of art, whose relationship of parts creates a mystery, an enchantment, which cannot be analysed.’ —Paul Nash, Outline, 1949

I went to see the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Britain. It was an overwhelming show. A huge collection of his works including watercolours, engravings, large oil paintings, collages, illustrations and poetry from his varied career. I wasn’t overly familiar with his work before attending, though I’d perhaps seen a few of his more famous surrealist paintings.

I didn’t know that he was a war artist in both World Wars. That he began his career as an illustrator. That he took a major role in organising the International Surrealist Exhibition in London 1936. I’m very keen to get my hands on his autobiography and learn more about him, but for now I wanted to share a couple of the pieces from the show that chimed with me.


Nash felt a strong connection to certain places. In 1938 he discovered ‘Monster Field’ a place where large fallen trees seemed to him to resemble beast-like creatures. He enjoyed returning there, though in a letter from the time he wrote that he had trouble remembering exactly how to find it. It seems to me he enjoyed the atmosphere of this field and those tree-creatures. They inspired him and he documented them in photos and a series of paintings. The branches reach out like tentacles and jagged shards of bark look like teeth.

I can relate to Nash’s Monster Field, some places have something very evocative about them. I have my own spots that can make me feel blissfully happy and serene, others that creep me up or that I feel strangely tied to though I can’t always explain why.


The other piece I particularly enjoyed ‘Swanage’ (1936) is a collage composed of photographs from Nash’s collection of found objects. Along with his fellow artist and friend Eileen Agar, they would place unusual objects together to create new and surreal encounters between them. Which they would then photograph, draw and paint. I love the muted colours in this piece. The shapes and forms, shadows and details that create an alien landscape.

Swanage c.1936 by Paul Nash 1889-1946
The Paul Nash exhibition is running at the Tate Britain from 26th October – 5th March
Tickets approx £15

Eric Ravilious, High Street

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I’ve been a big fan of Eric Ravilious the multi talented illustrator, designer, war artist and painter since first seeing his watercolours of the South Coast in the Eastbourne Towner gallery. Having grown up by the sussex countryside and beaches, I really felt that he was able to capture something of the spirit of the place. The rolling hills, the ancient, timeless feel of the land. But it wasn’t until recently, seeing his retrospective at the Dulwhich picture gallery and finally treating myself to ‘High Street’ his study of the different shops of his time, that I realised he’s one of my favourite illustrators and a big source of inspiration to me.

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His style is very distinctive, he creates texture and colour, building them up in layers. He is selective with his line work, using it to draw your attention, embellish and highlight important parts of the image. In ‘High Street’ Ravilious creates one lithograph for each shop and the architectural historian J M Richards writes an accompanying description, who works there, what they sell etc. As the book was first published in 1938 there is quite an unusual selection of stores, a theatrical prop shop, a submarine store, a taxidermists. It’s very hard to pick a favourite but I think my current is the the illustration of the ‘Public House’ (above).

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All images taken from ‘High Street’ without permission, Illustrations by Eric Ravilious.