Paul Nash, painting against World War I

This video is called Paul Nash: The Elements (Making the New World).

By Angela Stapleford in Britain:

Paul Nash: a life painting the bleak horror of war

Paul Nash’s first oil painting, ironically titled We Are Making a New World, is a stark and eerie vision of a landscape ravaged by the First World War.

Dead blasted trees and red skies form a nightmare image of the world the war was creating.

Painted in 1918, it is one of the most striking works in a new exhibition featuring paintings, drawings and photographs from Nash’s life.

He experienced the trenches as a soldier and after being wounded he exhibited paintings based on his sketches made on the Western Front.

He returned to the front as an official war artist for the War Propaganda Bureau.

Despite his official status he saw himself as “a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever.

“It will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls.”

Nash was a Modernist and an influential artist.

Some Modernist movements, like the Italian Futurists, celebrated war and focussed on the machine as dynamic and progressive.

But Nash’s war paintings are bleak and harsh and often connected to natural forces and the elements.

Nash remained deeply affected by his wartime experiences. His work continued to show the enduring bitter truth of war.

Even when he moved to paint landscapes, the melancholic quality of death and mourning remained.

Paul Nash: The Elements
Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Until 9 May

The Reluctant Tommy: British soldier who became an anti-war saboteur: here.

Engines Of War argues that the railways enabled carnage to take place on this scale through their ability to transport rapidly troops, ammunition and supplies in unprecedented quantities – although it is difficult to assess their influence on the outcome of several conflicts: here.

One of the most graphic accounts of World War I, the diary of German author Ernst Jünger, has been published for the first time. Its dispassionate description of life and death on the Western Front is a cold indictment of war — even though Jünger embraced the conflict throughout as a glorious test of manhood: here.

George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House and World War I: here. And here.

Anti-War Critics Forgotten on Oscar Night. Adam Hochschild, Tom Dispatch: “Yet curiously, for all the spectacle of boy and horse, thundering cavalry charges, muddy trenches, and wartime love and loss, the makers of War Horse, Downtown Abbey and – I have no doubt – the similar productions we’ll soon be watching largely skip over the greatest moral drama of those years of conflict, one that continues to echo in our own time of costly and needless wars….The First World War was not just a battle between rival armies, but also … between those who assumed the war was a noble crusade and those who thought it absolute madness”: here.

On September 3, 1911, a crowd in Berlin estimated at over 200,000 answered the call of the German socialist party, the SPD, to demonstrate against the growing threat of war in Europe: here.

14 thoughts on “Paul Nash, painting against World War I

  1. War Horse—All heart and no head
    By Kevin Martinez
    23 January 2012

    Directed by Steven Spielberg; based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.

    War Horse

    In the First World War, Britain lost approximately 887,000 men, nearly 2 percent of the population as a whole. For every eight soldiers who went to the front, one would not return home. Entire villages were decimated by the war and it was not uncommon for a family to lose all its sons. To this day, World War I remains Britain’s costliest conflict, despite the country’s entry into World War II and other colonial wars of the 20th century.

    Given the enormous carnage of the war, which was unprecedented to this point in world history, the notion of a “Pax Britannica” was dealt a blow from which it has never recovered. Millions of people in Britain and internationally began to see the old order—of kings and queens, the church, the military—as irrational and unjust, something to be swept away by means of revolution.

    Any serious artistic treatment of World War I has to take this basic truth into consideration. An artwork that merely uses imperialist war as a backdrop and accepts such a state of affairs as a given, and something that will not change, cannot offer any real insight or provide dramatic lessons to its audience.

    Such is the case with director Steven Spielberg’s latest film, War Horse. The story concerns a farmer and his family who reside in Devon, England before the start of the war. Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) purchases a young thoroughbred horse for the purposes of plowsharing on his modest farm. His wife Rose (Emily Watson) does not approve, noting the horse’s small size. The purchase is intended, in part, to spite Lyons (David Thewlis) the landlord of the farm, who earlier tried to outbid Ted for the horse.


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