Paul Nash

Harbour and Room


Paul Nash 1889–1946
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 914 × 711 mm
frame: 1107 × 905 × 105 mm
Purchased 1981

Display caption

In 1930 Nash travelled to the South of France, staying in a hotel by the sea. This image derives from a reflection of a ship in the large mirror which hung in front of his bed. The dream-like quality indicates Nash's interest in Surrealism, and in the unconscious. Read admired the way Nash managed to respond to the European influence of Surrealism, while maintaining the English character of his work. He wrote: 'The striking peculiarity of Paul Nash is that, alone in his generation, he has dared to transform the English tradition.' 

Gallery label, January 2022

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

T03206 HARBOUR AND ROOM 1932–6

Inscribed ‘Paul Nash’ bottom left
Oil on canvas, 36 × 28 (91.4 × 71.1)
Purchased from the Edward James
Foundation through James Kirkman Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Prov: Edward James; Edward James Foundation
Exh: International Surrealist Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, June 1936 (240); XXI Venice Biennale, June–September 1938 (British pavilion 9); Edward James Collection of Surrealist Paintings, South London Art Gallery, March–April 1965 (48); Surrealismo e Arte Fantástica, VIII São Paulo Bienal, September–November 1965 (works not numbered); Thirty Years of Surrealist Painting from the Edward James Collection, Brighton Art Gallery, April–May 1967 (48); Decade: 1920–30, Arts Council exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, February–March 1970, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, March–April, Museum and Art Gallery, Doncaster, April–May, City Art Gallery, Manchester, May–June, City Art Gallery, Bristol, June–July and Camden Arts Centre, August 1970 (127, dated 1930); Paul Nash: Paintings and Watercolours, Tate Gallery, November–December 1975 and Arts Council tour to City Art Gallery, Plymouth, The Minories, Colchester, Cartwright Memorial Hall, Bradford, and City Art Gallery, Manchester, January–May 1976 (129, repr.)
Lit: Margot Eates (ed.), Paul Nash: Paintings, Drawings and Illustrations, 1948, p.33,; Anthony Bertram, Paul Nash: The Portrait of an Artist, 1955, p.166; Margot Eates, Paul Nash: The Master of the Image, 1973, pp.26, 49, 62, 66, 68, 93, 123,; Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, Oxford 1980, no.878, pp.64, 141, 179, 181, 189–202, 226, 266–7, 280–2, 289, 414, 435, and pl.v in colour
Repr: Herbert Read (ed.), Surrealism, 1936, pl.63 (dated 1936)

In late February 1930 Paul Nash and his wife Margaret left England with Edward Burra to spend about six weeks on the Riviera, chiefly in Toulon, where they stayed in the Hôtel du Port which had been visited the summer before by Burra, Jean Cocteau and Cocteau's friends. The hotel overlooked the harbour in which lay part of the French fleet. Margaret Nash was later (in ‘Memories of Paul Nash 1913–1946 by Margaret Nash’, mainly unpublished typescript, copies in the Tate Gallery Archives and V&A Library, p.42) to describe how in ‘Harbour and Room’ Nash was to make use of a visual illusion, ‘a French Man O'War sailing into our bedroom; the idea resulting from the reflection of one of the ships in the very large mirror which hung in front of our bed’.

A watercolour study for the lower right-hand section of this composition is dated 1930 (Causèy no.693 as ‘Study at Toulon no.6’) and there is a version in watercolour of the whole composition dated 1931 (Causey no.707, 20 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.). Although the oil corresponds fairly closely to the latter and differs only in various details, Nash dated it 1932–6 in his display volume of photographs, and 1936 on the back of a photograph which he gave to Clare Neilson in 1937; it is also dated 1936 in Herbert Read's book on Surrealism published in that year. Causey suggests that, although possibly begun several years earlier, it must have been painted mainly in 1936, and was perhaps made specifically with the International Surrealist Exhibition in mind.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984


You might like

In the shop