In Paul Nash’s words, this watercolour shows ‘aeriel habitations where the soul like a bird or some such aeriel creature roamed at will.’

Paul Nash, 'Mansions of the Dead' 1932

Paul Nash
Mansions of the Dead 1932
Pencil and watercolour on paper
support: 578 x 394 mm frame: 820 x 611 x 22 mm
Purchased 1981© Tate

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As with William Blake’s The River of Life (also on display in our Watercolour exhibition), which also imagines the soul’s release, this watercolour is essentially a drawing with perspective lines interpenetrated with pale washes of colour, to present gravity-defying structures hovering among clouds.

William Blake, 'The River of Life' circa 1805

William Blake
The River of Life circa 1805
Pen and ink and watercolour on paper
image: 305 x 336 mm support: 442 x 432 mm
Bequeathed by W. Graham Robertson 1949

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The watercolour is one of a group that Nash produced in relation to a series of illustrations for a 1932 edition of Sir Thomas Browne’s Urne Buriall and the Garden of Cyrus 1658, which concerned the rituals of death and questions of immortality.

Comments

Kevin Faulkner

This is one of a whole series of Nash's illustrations. It was a much cherished ambition of Paul Nash to provide imagery to Browne's 1658 Discourses, when invited to do so he leapt at the opportunity. Browne's fertile imagination often seems to stimulate artistic activity when fully comprehended.