Art Term

Neo-romanticism

Neo-romanticism is a term applied to the imaginative and often quite abstract landscape based painting of Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland and others in the late 1930s and 1940s

Paul Nash, ‘Pillar and Moon’ 1932–42
Paul Nash
Pillar and Moon 1932–42
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John Craxton, ‘Dreamer in Landscape’ 1942
John Craxton
Dreamer in Landscape 1942
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© John Craxton
Graham Sutherland OM, ‘Black Landscape’ 1939–40
Graham Sutherland OM
Black Landscape 1939–40
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© The estate of Graham Sutherland
Keith Vaughan, ‘Communication of Hate’ c.1943
Keith Vaughan
Communication of Hate c.1943
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© The estate of Keith Vaughan

The work of these artists often included figures, was generally sombre, reflecting the Second World War and its approach and aftermath, but rich, poetic and capable of a visionary intensity. It was partly inspired by the visionary landscapes of Samuel Palmer and The Ancients, partly by a more general emotional response to the British landscape and its history.

As well as Nash and Sutherland, other major neo-romantics were Michael Ayrton, John Craxton, Ivon Hitchens, John Minton, John Piper, Keith Vaughan. The term sometimes embraces Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, and the early work of Lucian Freud. Also the graphic work of Henry Moore of the period, especially his drawings of war-time air-raid shelters.

The term is also applied to a group of figurative painters working in Paris in the early 1920s. Their brooding often nostalgic work quickly became labelled neo-romantic. Chief among them were the Russian-born trio of Eugène Berman and his brother Leonid, and Pavel Tchelitchew.