This Suffolk landscape by John Northcote Nash presents an unusual elevated viewpoint, as if we are standing next to the artist from the clay roof tiles and chimney stack of a house. Stretching out below is a green lawn over which the bordering mature green trees throw long dark shadows. Beyond in the low flat landscape are fields of yellow, purple and red, and a glimpse of a stretch of water on which small boats sail.
Nash painted this work in Iken, a village to the west of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. He is widely associated as a painter of East Anglian landscapes, most notably of the Stour Valley in Essex where he and his wife Christine spent most of their summers from 1929 up to the Second World War. In 1945 they settled at Bottengoms Farmhouse, a Tudor house in the Stour Valley. 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 that inspired him, of which he wrote:
‘Compared with the West it’s more brilliant in atmosphere and it’s subtler, less obviously dramatic.’
By focusing on the forms and colours of the landscape, Nash captures a sense of permanence and stillness of a particular moment in time. 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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