Private View: Paul Nash

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The Independent Online

The credit for awakening English art to modernism in the 1930s is usually given to Ben Nicholson, but he wasn't alone. One of the most vocal supporters was the painter and writer Paul Nash, who used his platform as art critic of The Listener to assert his ideas.

The credit for awakening English art to modernism in the 1930s is usually given to Ben Nicholson, but he wasn't alone. One of the most vocal supporters was the painter and writer Paul Nash, who used his platform as art critic of The Listener to assert his ideas.

His articles paved the way for a more forward-thinking approach, and specifically the formation of Unit One, the exhibiting group that Nash gathered together in 1933. He was respected both as a critic and painter, making his name in the First World War, yet Unit One didn't last, despite having members that included Moore, Hepworth and Nicholson.

The problem, perhaps, was a fundamental lack of unity: an incompatibility between surrealism and abstraction, the two strands of modern art that were developing in Europe.

Nash was alone in showing inclination to balance the two and became at home with a kind of home-grown Surrealism: never too zany in mood and always tied to his favourite subject - the English landscape.

He's one of the great English artists of the 20th century and a chance to see the Fitzwilliam Museum's entire holdings of his work shouldn't be missed.

'Paul Nash', The Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street, Cambridge (01223 332900), until 17 Sep

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