The more the object is studied from the point of view of its animation the more incalculable it becomes in its variations; the more subtle, also, becomes the problem of assembling and associating different objects in order to create that true irrational poise which is the solution of the personal equation.
– Paul Nash, ‘The Life of the Inanimate Object’, Country Life, May 1937

Eileen Agar, ‘Marine Object’ 1939
Eileen Agar
Marine Object 1939
© The estate of Eileen Agar

In the 1930s found objects became central to Nash’s work, and he began to develop the idea of the ‘object-personage’. In 1934 he discovered a piece of drift wood, which he later called Marsh Personage, describing how he ‘was instantly and intensely aware of being in the presence of what he could only describe as a “personage”’. He explored the idea of a life force in inanimate objects and created encounters between them, arranging flints, bones, driftwood, and small geometric objects into still life compositions. Nash also actively engaged with André Breton’s and Salvador Dalí’s ideas of the found object –that it was created by the artist finding it, yet it had always been waiting in the unconscious. He met Eileen Agar in 1935 when he was living at Swanage on the Dorset coast, and together the two artists explored ideas of the found object and the creative possibilities of photography, collage and assemblage. Both Nash and Agar used the surrealist practice of transforming found objects through unexpected juxtapositions to create sculptures, many of which were included in the Surrealist Objects and Poems exhibition at the London Gallery in November 1937.