John Nash

The Cornfield


Not on display

John Nash 1893–1977
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 686 × 762 mm
frame: 938 × 1014 × 92 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1952

Display caption

John Nash served in the army in the World War One. In 1918 he left the army and became an official war artist. The Cornfield was the first painting he made after that, which did not depict the subject of war. In its ordered view of the landscape and geometric treatment of the corn stooks, it prefigures his brother Paul's Equivalents for the Megaliths, also shown in this room. John wrote that he and Paul used to paint for their own pleasure only after six o''clock, when their work as war artists was over for the day. Hence the long shadows cast by the evening sun across the field in the centre of the painting.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘John Nash’ b.r.
Canvas, 27×30 (68·5×76).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1952.

Coll: Sir Edward Marsh 1919, presented to Ivor Novello on condition that he bequeathed it to the C.A.S. for presentation to the Tate Gallery; C.A.S. 1952.
Exh: London Group, April–May 1919 (42), as ‘Cornfield - Chalfont’; Goupil Gallery, February 1921 (44); C.A.S., Paintings and Drawings, Grosvenor House, June–July 1923 (9); Modern Paintings and Drawings lent by Edward Marsh, Newcastle, 1931 (24); Anthology of English Painting, 1900–31, French Gallery, November 1931 (33); Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1934 (136); British Council, Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg, 1936 (595).
Lit: Frank Rutter, ‘John Nash’ in Studio, CI, 1931, p.332; John Rothenstein, Modern English Painters: Lewis to Moore, 1956, p.240.
Repr: Studio, CXLVII, 1954, p.4; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1962, p.254.

On the back there is the beginning of another landscape composition in flat areas of colour; this has been erased with rough brush-strokes.

The artist wrote of ‘The Cornfield’: ‘It was painted in 1918 - late summer when Paul and I were sharing a large herb-dying shed at Chalfont Common (near C. St Peter) and painting War pictures. I remember we were very punctilious about working for the Ministry of Information all day and did not allow ourselves to do any of our own peace time work until after 6 o'c in the evenings! This was the first painting (not war) that I did after being released from the Army’ (letter of 7 July 1952). For a related watercolour see N06234.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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