Catalogue entry

T02243 IN THE MARSHES 1938


Not inscribed

Plant stems and bark on three-plywood, 9 1/2 × 14 3/4 (24.2 × 36.5)
Presented by Anthony and Anne d'Offay 1977

Prov: Margaret Nash; Anstice Shaw from c. 1958; sold Sotheby's 7 April 1971 (lot 71) bought J. A. Huggett; Hamet Gallery; Anthony d'Offay.
Exh: Exhibition of Recent work by Paul Nash, Leicester Galleries, May–June 1938; British Surrealist and Abstract Paintings, Northampton Art Gallery. June 1939 (54); Paul Nash, Gordon Fraser Gallery, Cambridge, July 1939 (19); Paul Nash: An Exhibition of Applied Designs 1908–1942, CEMA travelling exhibition shown amongst other places at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in April 1943; Paintings, Drawings and Designs by Paul Nash, Cheltenham Art Gallery, June 1945 (55); Paintings and watercolours by Paul Nash, St Hilda's College, Oxford, January 1959 (works not numbered); Art in Britain 1930–40 Centred around Axis Circle Unit One, Marlborough Fine Art and Marlborough New London Gallery, March–April 1965 (111); Paul Nash 1889–1946, Hamet Gallery, May 1973 (52); British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture 1890–1975, Anthony d'Offay, November–December 1975 (21).

Paul Nash made his first collages in 1929 (information from Ruth Clark in a letter of 14 March 1974, see The Tate Gallery 1972–74 Biennial Report, catalogue entry for T01771, ‘Swanage’ c.1936 by Paul Nash, which contains details of the artist's use of collage and found-objects). Probably his first objet-trouvé was ‘Marsh Personage’ a piece of split and eroded tree-trunk found on the bank of the River Rother, near Rye in 1934. This was shown in the 1936 New Burlington Galleries International Surrealist Exhibition as well as five collages and two objects.

Nash depicted trees in his work throughout his life as well as photographing them in the 1930s. In the spring of 1936 the Timber Development Association held an exhibition on the theme of ‘Timber through the Ages’ for which Nash designed a mural 20ft long by 10ft high consisting mainly of rectilinear shaped veneers.

Mr R. J. Pankhurst of the British Museum (Natural History) has tentatively identified the collage components of ‘In the Marshes’ as being the stems of bulrushes and pine, probably Scots pine, bark. The source of these vegetable components is unknown. None of those who knew Nash well in the 'thirties (Clare Neilson, Ruth Clark, Eileen Agar and Sir Roland Penrose) can remember Nash discussing the work. In the opinion of Clare Neilson and Eileen Agar, the title ‘In the Marshes’ refers to Romney Marsh. Nash and his wife lived on or near Romney Marsh for much of the time from 1920 until 1933.

Vertical and horizontal lines in series occur frequently in Nash's paintings and watercolours executed throughout his career. The 1938 exhibition, in which ‘In the Marshes’ was shown, also included ‘Forest’ in which parts of glove holders were fixed vertically to a wooden support and ‘Moon Aviary’ (destroyed) a rectilinear structure under a glass domed cover. An installation photograph which shows these three works adjacent to one another, indicates that sometime since 1938 the two pieces of bark in ‘In the Marshes’ have been removed and remounted on the plywood upside down. It is not known when this occurred. No photographs of the work taken between 1938 and the time of acquisition by the Tate are known.

The compiler is grateful to Dr Andrew Causey for help with the exhibition history of this work.


Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979