A concentrated utterance of total war: Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson and the Great War

Gough, P 2017, 'A concentrated utterance of total war: Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson and the Great War' in Joanna Bourke (ed.) War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict, Reaktion Books, United Kingdom, pp. 270-282.

Document type: Book Chapter
Collection: Book Chapters

Title A concentrated utterance of total war: Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson and the Great War
Author(s) Gough, P
Year 2017
Title of book War and Art: A Visual History of Modern Conflict
Publisher Reaktion Books
Place of publication United Kingdom
Editor(s) Joanna Bourke
Start page 270
End page 282
Subjects Art History
Summary Few British artists emerged from the cauldron of the Great War as radically transformed as the young painters CWR Nevinson and Paul Nash. Nevinson, possibly the greatest artistic impresario in pre-war London, had volunteered early and cultivated an image of a fearless artist-soldier, sketching in the trenches, dodging enemy shellfire, forging a new visual language of warfare. His paintings set a benchmark for Modernist ambition: he made the first images of the war from the air, undertook illicit visits to the front line and witnessed suffering on an apocalyptic scale. He met the essential criteria of the war artist: dogged, dangerous, inspirational; capable of rendering the dreadful nihilism of the war in an uncomplicated figurative form that blended realism with geometric modernism. Paul Nash, equally capable of crafting his self-image, served only eight weeks in the trenches as an officer in a line regiment, but this short exposure to the noisome world of the Western Front transformed his practice from a tepid watercolourist of borrowed Pre-Raphaelite visions into a tougher radical vision of splintered woods, convulsed meadows and epic panoramas of the hollowed Salient. The experiences of Nash and Nevinson typify the opportunities and challenges face by many of the 130 British official war artists in the First World War. They had to locate their subject in the face of total warfare; negotiate the constraints of a government-funded arts scheme, and maintain their integrity as artists amidst the clamour of conflict. This chapter explores the work of two painters who emerged as the most important and original British artists of the time, but who both struggled to adjust to peace, their idealism strained, if not shattered, by the face of war. Ahead, wrote Nash ominously in late 1918, lay the 'struggles of a war artist without a war'.
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Keyword(s) Art
War art
Paul Nash
ISBN 9781780238463
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Created: Thu, 31 Jan 2019, 11:26:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
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