Joseph Nash

A Figure Kneeling in Prayer, St Remy, Dieppe


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Not on display

Joseph Nash 1808–1878
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 245 × 352 mm
Presented by Miss Mary Louise Archibald 2017


Joseph Nash’s church interiors often included figures at their devotions, such as the pious woman seen in this watercolour dating from around 1830. She is shown kneeling before a tomb in a chapel in St Rémy, one of the two main historic churches of Dieppe, in northern France. Hung with frayed banners, the tomb seems to be missing some of its carving, presumably as a result of revolutionary iconoclasm. Blueish shadows, broken by the ray of light falling on the tomb, create an atmosphere of mystery and reverence. A watercolourist and lithographer of chiefly architectural subjects, often of the late Gothic and Renaissance period in Britain and continental Europe, as well as a painter of narrative genre and an illustrator of ‘olden time’ scenes for a more popular audience, Nash became an associate of the Old Water-Colour Society in 1834 and a full member in 1842. He first travelled to France in 1829 with his teacher Augustus Pugin (1812–1852), to help draw illustrations for Pugin’s series Paris and its Environs. Also in conjunction with Pugin, Nash produced his first series of lithographs, Views Illustrative of the Examples of Gothic Architecture (1830). His sympathetic interest in the buildings and culture of a Catholic country, where religion had revived with the Restoration, must date from that time, and was developed in his lithographs of mainly European ecclesiastical buildings, Architecture of the Middle Ages (1838).

The nineteenth-century Gothic Revival and Anglo-Catholic movements in Britain came about at least partly as a consequence of the close cultural relationship that developed between France and Britain after the Napoleonic Wars, when British artists and travellers were exposed to the religious and feudal nostalgia accompanying the Bourbon Restoration; in return, the French absorbed some of the dynamic and distinctive aspects of contemporary British art, including watercolour.

Further reading
J.L. Roget, History of the Old Water-Colour Society, vol.II, London 1891, pp.241ff.

David Blayney Brown
April 2017

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