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

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  • Paul Nash, 'Pillar and Moon' 1932-42

    Paul Nash
    Pillar and Moon 1932-42
    Oil on canvas
    support: 508 x 762 mm frame: 698 x 954 x 84 mm
    Presented by the Art Fund 1942 Tate

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  • John Craxton, 'Dreamer in Landscape' 1942

    John Craxton
    Dreamer in Landscape 1942
    Ink with pen and brush and chalk on paper
    support: 548 x 762 mm
    Purchased 1984 John Craxton/DACS 2002

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  • Graham Sutherland OM, 'Black Landscape' 1939-40

    Graham Sutherland OM
    Black Landscape 1939-40
    Oil and sand on canvas
    support: 810 x 1321 mm frame: 1006 x 1506 x 76 mm
    Purchased 1980 The estate of Graham Sutherland

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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.