Paul Nash

Pillar and Moon

1932–42

Artist
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 508 x 762 mm
frame: 698 x 954 x 84 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Art Fund 1942
Reference
N05392

On loan to: Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts (Norwich, UK)

Exhibition: Paul Nash

Display caption

Paul Nash was deeply affected by his experiences as a soldier and an artist during the First World War. This picture was based around ‘the mystical association of two objects which inhabit different elements and have no apparent relationin life... The pale stone sphere on top of a ruined pillar faces its counterpart the moon, cold and pale and solid as stone.’Though not explicitly about mourning, the deep, unpopulated space and ghostly lighting gives the scene a melancholy air. Rather than depict a real landscape, Nash said that his intention had been ‘to call up memories and stir emotions in the spectator’.

Gallery label, July 2007

Catalogue entry

N05392 PILLAR AND MOON 1932–42

Inscr. ‘Paul Nash’ b.r.
Canvas, 20×30 (51×76).
Presented by the National Art-Collections Fund 1942.
Coll: Purchased by the N.A.C.F. from the artist through Arthur Tooth & Sons for presentation to the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Tate Gallery, March–May 1948 (52).
Lit: E. H. Ramsden, ‘Paul Nash as Landscape Painter’ in Eates, 1948, p.30; Bertram, 1955, pp.298–9; Digby, 1955, pp.180–1, repr. pl.53; Rothenstein, 1961, at pl.8, repr. (in colour).
Repr: Read, 1944, pl.32; John Russell, From Sickert to 1948, 1948, p.71; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.107 (in colour).

This picture, begun in 1932 and completed ten years later, is the first of a series of paintings based on ‘the mystical association of two objects which inhabit different elements and have no apparent relation in life.... The pale stone sphere on top of a ruined pillar faces its counterpart the moon, cold and pale and solid as stone. No legend or history attaches to such a picture; its drama is inherent in the scene. Its appeal is purely evocatory. That is to say, its power, if power it has, is to call up memories and stir emotions in the spectator, rather than to impose a particular idea upon him. Even so the animation of such a picture lies in its ruling design. Not only does this dictate the nature of the drama, it also expresses by its forms and colours the nature of its mystery’ (the artist, reprinted in Bertram, loc. cit.). The series developed largely on the subject of the Sunflower and the Sun, e.g. the painting of that title of 1942 in Sydney (repr. in colour, Read, 1944, pl.31) and the sequence of four paintings left unfinished at the artist's death (one in the British Council collection and one at Ottawa; repr. in colour, Eates, 1948, pls. 114 and 115). A watercolour version of 1942 belongs to Dudley Tooth (6 1/2×9 1/2 in.; inscr. ‘Souvenir for Dudley’ and signed with the artist's monogram); it has been squared as for enlargement.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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