Paul Nash

Month of March

1929

Not on display

Artist
Paul Nash 1889–1946
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Frame: 1048 × 841 × 52 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted in lieu by HM Government and allocated to Tate 2019
Reference
T15590

Summary

Month of March 1929 is a painting in oil on canvas that shows the view from Nash’s studio at Oxenbridge Cottage near Iden in Sussex, where he lived between 1925 and 1930. The viewer looks through an open window whose white frame bisects that of a fruit-picking ladder. To the right is a gate also intersected by the window frame and to the left a wattle hurdle, traditionally made from woven willow or hazel. Beyond this is an orchard of young trees, planted in precise rows, and a hedge. The composition of the painting is formed around the contrasting straight lines created by these natural objects, setting up an opposition between manmade and natural objects in nature. These are all framed by the device of the open window, which creates a landscape within a landscape and whose relationship with the real picture edge creates an ambiguity about the space of the painting and the space of the viewer.

In his autobiography Outline, published posthumously in 1949, Nash identified 1928 as the beginning of ‘a new vision and a new style’ in his work. He first saw the work of Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978) in London in 1928 and paintings made after this year, such as Landscape at Iden 1929 (Tate N05047) and Northern Adventure 1929 (Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums) show de Chirico’s influence. They suggest mysterious narratives through strange juxtapositions of objects, enigmatic architectural structures and framing devices in the landscape, as well as the use of accentuated perspective to create a sense of the uncanny. Like Landscape at Iden, Month of March shows the view from Nash’s studio window, but it represents a new development in the artist’s treatment of space. Here Nash explored the intersection of geometrical forms to create multiple perspectives, framing part of the landscape within the open window of the studio. This both demonstrates the importance of cubist multiple perspectives to Nash’s work in this period and draws on surrealist ideas in offering the alternate reality of a landscape within a landscape. The painting thus demonstrates the significant impact of cubism and surrealism on both Nash’s work and British cultural life in the inter-war period. Nash was influential in bringing the developments of European inter-war modernism to Britain both in his art and his writing, later forming the group Unit One to promote the work of British abstract and surrealist artists.

The complex intersection of the wooden frameworks of the window, fruit-picking ladders and fences in Month of March accentuates the effect of a landscape defined by manmade structures and anticipates the framing devices that Nash would use in one of his greatest surrealist landscapes, Landscape from a Dream 1936–8 (Tate N05667). The art historian Andrew Causey has interpreted Month of March as one of a sequence of three paintings dating from 1929 relating to the death of Nash’s father in February of that year (the others being February [private collection] and Landscape at Iden). He suggests that the fruit-picking ladder may be a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ ascending to heaven (Causey 1980, p.173) and notes ‘the tangle of gates, fences and hedges that close off access to further landscapes insisting that the only accessible pathway is upwards’ (Causey 2013, p.69).

Further reading
Margot Eates, Paul Nash, London 1948, plate 52.
Paul Nash, A Memorial Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1948, cat. no.26, p.12.
Paul Nash, Paintings and Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery 1975, cat. no.114.
Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, Oxford 1980, pp.174, 406, cat. no.638.
David Fraser Jenkins, Paul Nash: The Elements, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 2010, p.115.
Andrew Causey, Paul Nash: Landscape and the Life of Objects, Farnham 2013, pp. 56, 69–71, 77, 93, 101.
Emma Chambers (ed.), Paul Nash, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2016, pp.102, 182.

Emma Chambers
August 2019

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