Paul Nash, ‘The Wall, Dymchurch’ c.1923
Paul Nash
The Wall, Dymchurch c.1923

In 1921 Nash suffered a severe breakdown, diagnosed as ‘war strain.’ To recuperate he rented a cottage, with his wife Margaret, at Dymchurch on the Kent coast. The couple first visited the area in 1919 shortly after the end of the war and Nash found it to be ‘a delightful place with much inspiring material for work’. He formed a strong connection to the place, and to the ancient landscape of nearby Romney Marsh. These subjects became a preoccupation in his work until 1925.

Nash was impressed by the vast sea wall at Dymchurch, a man-made structure designed to protect the Marsh from flooding from the sea. For him, the wall became emblematic of the continuous interaction between land and sea. Nash nearly drowned as a child and wrote that he associated the sea with ‘cold and cruel waters, usually in a threatening mood, pounding and rattling along the shore’.

Nash found that the coast at Dymchurch offered a naturally abstract landscape and during this period he began to incorporate abstraction into his work for the first time. In paintings such as Dymchurch Wall 1923 and The Shore 1923, Nash translated the sea and landscape into a series of interlocking planes and geometric shapes, influenced by Cézanne’s progressive fragmentation of nature.