Unit One

Unit One may be said to stand for the expression of a truly contemporary spirit, for that thing which is recognized as peculiarly of to-day in painting, sculpture, and architecture.
– Paul Nash, letter to The Times, 12 June 1933
Paul Nash, ‘Voyages of the Moon’ 1934–7
Paul Nash
Voyages of the Moon 1934–7

Nash announced the foundation of Unit One in a letter to The Times in June 1933. The group of artists included John Armstrong, John Bigge, Edward Burra, Barbara Hepworth, Tristram Hillier, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Edward Wadsworth with architects Wells Coates and Colin Lucas. The members of Unit One were broadly aligned with either abstract or surrealist positions, and Nash’s letter set out how the group was opposed to the dominant naturalist tendency in English art, and was interested instead in ‘design … considered as a structural pursuit: imagination, explored apart from literature or metaphysics’. One of the group’s aims was to ensure that the members’ works could be seen alongside those of artists with similar interests rather than in eclectic group shows. Unit One toured an influential exhibition in 1934–5, and the works exhibited here were shown in that exhibition. It took place when Nash was moving away from abstraction towards surrealism and the works he showed reflect this transitional moment. Unit One had disbanded by 1935, but for Nash it had been important in publicly stating his commitment to international modernism and positioning himself alongside other leading British avant-garde artists.