Paul Nash

The Cherry Orchard


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Not on display

Paul Nash 1889–1946
Watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
Support: 575 × 482 mm
frame: 770 × 685 × 22 mm
Purchased 1975

Catalogue entry

T01946 THE ORCHARD ?1914

Inscribed ‘Nash’ and monogram b.r.
Watercolour, ink and pencil, 22 1/2×18 (57.1×45.8)
Purchased from The Fine Art Society Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1975
Coll: Sold Sotheby's, London, April 7 1971 (70), bt. Hamet Gallery; Peyton Skipworth
Exh: Paul Nash, Hamet Gallery, May 1973 (4, repr.); Paul Nash: Paintings and Watercolours, Tate Gallery, November–December, 1975 (33, repr.) as ?‘The Cherry Orchard’ 1917

The original title and date of this work are not known. On several occasions drawings or watercolours by Paul Nash which included ‘Orchard’ in their titles were exhibited before 1920. They are:

1. ‘Study for a Design: the Orchard’ shown in the London Group exhibition, March 1915 (37)

2. ‘Drawing of an Orchard’ shown in the London Group exhibition in November 1916 (66)

3. ‘Drawing of an Orchard’ shown in the exhibition of drawings by Nash at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in September 1917 (6), (in a copy of the catalogue for the Birmingham exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum Library this title is annotated in Margaret Nash's hand ‘1916’ and ‘J.D.’ indicating that it was bought by John Drinkwater

4. ‘Moonrise over Orchard’ also shown in the Birmingham exhibition (12) as lent by John Drinkwater (catalogue in the V. & A. Library is annotated by Margaret Nash ‘14 1/2×16 1/2 1914’)

5. ‘The Cherry Orchard’ shown in the London Group exhibition in November 1917 (76)

6. ‘Orchard’ shown in Nash's exhibition of drawings at 9 Fitzroy Street in November–December 1919 (6) (in the catalogue in the V. & A. Library this title was annotated by Margaret Nash ‘Dr W.H. Davies’).

The only drawing of an orchard that can be identified with near certainty is the ‘Drawing of an Orchard’ shown at Birmingham in 1917, which is reproduced (5) as ‘Orchard’ as belonging to John Drinkwater in Anthony Bertram's Paul Nash 1923. This drawing was shown in the 1975 Tate Gallery Paul Nash: Paintings and Watercolours exhibition (29) and dated by Andrew Causey as 1914.

In the bottom right-hand corner of T01946 are depicted snowdrops in flower. Nash mentioned orchards and snowdrops more than once in his correspondence with Gordon Bottomley in the years 1911–18, printed in Poet and Painter: being the Correspondence between Gordon Bottomley and Paul Nash 1910–46 ed. Claude Colleer-Abbott and Anthony Bertram, London 1955. Nash wrote from Iver Heath, Bucks, to Bottomley on 20 February 1911 (Abbott op.cit, p.17): ‘... The lanes are exciting beyond words to anyone who looks for “signs” and on Saturday I saw a beautiful sight-an orchard where bunches of snowdrops grew in the grass-somehow a thing like snowdrops wild in the grass took my breath away’. Less than two months later on 4 April 1911 Bottomley wrote to Nash (Abbott op.cit, p.18) ‘You have done a most delightful cover design for “Snowdrops” which brings me to the drawings’. In a letter to Bottomley from Chalfont St Peter, Bucks, dated 16 July 1918 Nash wrote: ‘They [John Nash and his wife] live in rooms in a little house next to the shed and Bunty and I have a room in the old farm-a charming place with a wonderful cherry orchard and fine old barns and sheep and rabbits and all that sort of thing’ (Abbott op.cit, p.99).

In his catalogue entry for T01946 in the 1975 Tate exhibition, Andrew Causey gave the work the title of ‘The Cherry Orchard’, with a query, and dated it as being 1917, identifying it with the work shown in the November 1917 London Group exhibition. In Causey's view: ‘... the style and mood fit the date as well as can be calculated on the basis of the very few pictures other than war ones which exist for the years 1916–17. “The Cherry Orchard” was made at John Drinkwater's home, Winston's Cottage, Far Oakridge, Gloucestershire, where Nash went in July 1917, partly to plan the exhibition that Drinkwater arranged for him at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in September. In a letter of 26 July, after the visit, Nash told Drinkwater that he was submitting the picture to the London Group. In July 1917 Nash had recovered from his injury at the front in May, but did not yet know that his return would be in the role of an official artist. This might help to account for the extraordinary tense imagery of the picture which seems more a later winter than a summer design’.

To the compiler, Causey's arguments for July being the date of execution for T01946 are unconvincing. The trees are depicted leafless and at the bottom right snowdrops are in bloom. In July the trees would have been covered with foliage. It would perhaps have been difficult to draw them bare with such accuracy so that they could be identified as cherry trees, as they have been by a botanist at Kew, Dr Bernard Verdcourt (letter to the compiler 2 September 1975).

It seems more likely that T01946 dates from 1914 for it has points in common with works of that year. In T01946 the fence and ditch are parallel to the picture plane as is the fence in ‘The Elms’ 1914 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) and the hedge and line of trees in ‘Trees and Shrub’ 1914 (Rutherston Loan Collection, Manchester City Art Gallery). Furthermore as in ‘Trees and Shrub’ the outlines of the trees are sharply clipped as they are too in T01946. In ‘The Elms’ there is a brown band of watercolour, depicting the middle distance, across the picture; a similar band of brown runs across T.1946. Other arguments in favour of a 1914 date are the size of the work and the signature and monogram. Nash's watercolours were often large in 1914 and signed ‘Nash’ and a monogram. Works of such size and signed thus were much less common in 1917–18. However, any one of these arguments is not conclusive in itself, but taking all the points together makes the likelihood of T01946 dating from 1914 seem greater than a date of 1917.

If T01946 was executed in 1914 it may well have been one Nash described to Bottomley that year. In about mid-August to early September 1914 Nash and his wife visited Leeds and after lunching with Sir Michael Sadler, vice Chancellor of the university and art collector, they stayed the night with Charles Rutherston who had a notable collection of paintings and drawings. Nash wrote to Bottomley at about this time: ‘Everything [in Rutherston's collection] is first rate I felt very proud to see my drawing hung up there. Charles very much liked the big Orchard drawing [Nash seems to have been carrying a number of watercolours and drawings with him] and I think would have bought it if war had not just broken out and caused eversone to think twice about buying a thing...’ (Abbott op.cit, p.73)

After seeing the picture again, Andrew Causey wrote to the compiler (letter 6 January 1976): ‘I notice now that there are the remains of a figure drawing in pencil across the front of “The Cherry Orchard” which to my mind adds something to the argument for 1917, though I agree you could argue otherwise. Look at letter III in Poet and Painter (p.94) [28 September 1917] “... also two large pen drawings of landscape with figures and three rather queer water colours in which figures of women come into the design”.’

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978


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