In 1945, John Northcote Nash and his wife Christine settled at Bottengoms Farmhouse, a Tudor house in the Stour Valley. ‘Ripe Corn’ is a late summer landscape of country fields and lush foliage, dominated by the glow of cornfields in the middle distance. Although there were many regions of Britain that Nash admired, including Cornwall and Shropshire, it was the particular light and landscape of the Stour Valley on the Suffolk and Essex border that inspired him, of which he wrote:
“Compared with the West it’s more brilliant in atmosphere and it’s subtler, less obviously dramatic.”
The undulating grey form in the field in the foreground of Nash’s painting resembles the foundations of an ancient site. This area of East Anglia is notable for its wealth of remains from Iron Age, Saxon, Roman and Norman eras. Nash included this mysterious form to indicate a past Iron Age burial site: he was fascinated by places which revealed the tangible evidence of a historic past. The detail of each individual tree species is perceptively observed, while the late afternoon shadows cast by overhead clouds mirror the unusual shape of the ancient site in the foreground field.
‘Ripe Corn’ captures a still moment in the agricultural year before the harvest of corn starts in late summer. An Official War Artist during both World Wars, Nash returned to the depiction of landscape, and his paintings of the late 1940s reveal an affinity and admiration for the English countryside. His concentration on the close depiction of landscape in the post-war period is an interest shared by his contemporary, the British artist, John Piper (1903–1992), whose paintings of the 1930s often focused on buildings and places under threat from war-time destruction.
John Nash, painter, wood engraver and illustrator, was born in London. He was the younger brother of British artist, Paul Nash (1889-1946) with whom he shared his first exhibition at the Dorien Leigh Galleries (London, 1913). After serving with the Artists Rifles during the First World War and working as Official War Artist from 1916 to 1918, John Nash became the first art critic of the ‘London Mercury’ magazine in 1919. During the 1920s and 1930s he taught at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, and the Royal College of Art, London. Although more often associated with landscape painting, Nash was also a prolific book illustrator who specialised in botanical drawing and had developed a great knowledge of plant types since childhood.
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