In the 3rd part of my review of British art I will be considering the important influence of Paul Nash who I have reviewed before and is featured in a exhibition at Tate Britain. His importance cannot be overstated as Frances Spalding recognises.
” One artist who played a significant role during the early 1930’s was Paul Nash. he first saw a substantial collection of contemporary French and Italian art while painting in Paris en route to Toulon”. .
” Aware of a trend towards abstraction he himself experimented with this style between 1929-1931 eventually realising that it was ill suited to his interests and temperament”. .
Spalding in her further commentary on Nash shows that he remained a Landscape painter of some importance.
” He remained primarily a landscape artist though he abstracted and remoulded nature according to his needs”..
” The issue of abstract art grew more divisive as the decade progressed”. .
Spalding now discusses Unit 1 which was formed By Nash and others.
” It undermined abstraction the cohesiveness of unit one a group of 11 artists whose existence was announced by Paul Nash in a letter to the Times on 2nd June 1933″..
” The 11 members included Nash , Moore Wadsworth , Coates Hepworth and Ben Nicholson , Burra and others”..
Nicholson was responsible for the first abstract Exhibition which came to Britain.
” The same year saw the first abstract Exhibition in England. It was engineered by Ben Nicholson”. .
” It was during this decade that Ben Nicholson was able to concentrate in his art a number of crucial experiences. He had first recognised the abstract potential of colour in 1921 when on a visit to Paul Rosenberg’s gallery where he saw Picasso”..
Concentrating on Nicholson Spalding continues with her commentary on his abstraction.
” In !924 and 1929 Nicholson produced canvasses that appear to be entirely abstract but it was not until the 1930’s that he progressed logically through an investigation of Cubism to a pure and substained abstract style”. .
” Nicholson and Hepworth were also given an introduction to Piet Mondrian (De styll Movement and Neo Plasticism) by Lazlo Mohology-Nagy at the (Bahaus). the experience of this white painted studio and of Mondrian’s paintings (Neo Plasticism)”. .
Nicholson was impressed by the mirror images displayed in Mondrian’s studio .
” Fascinated by the mirror image Ben Nicholson frequently used it in the early 1930’s to further his interest in shifting depth and ambiguous planar relationships”. .
” His use of line shape and colour like the mirror began to operate both as objects in their own rights and as illusion”. .
Nicholson was an idealist believing that freeing colour and form would lead to some form of abstract freedom.
” Nicholson believed that the liberation of form and colour achieved by abstract art paralleled or was linked to other forms of freedom”. .
” Hence the abstract works produced by Nicholson and Hepworth during the 1930’s have been seen to involve the very extinction of Englishness ( Whatever that means)”. 
” This opposition (Moore’s Figurative sculptures) has informed the post-war writing of both critics who accuse 20th century British artists of failing to match up to the bold avant-gardism of their continental or American Counterparts”..
Barker in her essay comments on Unit 1 .
” At the same time Unit 1 needs to be seen as a strategic response to the difficult economic conditions in which artists found themselves in the early 1930’s”..
Barker continues her comments about Nicholson and Hepworth during the 1930’s.
” During the mid-1930’s Nicholson and Hepworth both spent time in France where they met and visited a number of Important artists including Pablo Picasso, Hans Arp ( who when the Nazi’s invaded Paris would eventually move to the United States and have a very big influence on American art) Constantine Brancusi and Piet Mondrian”. .
” The growing commitment on the part of Nicholson and Hepworth to the practice of abstract art helped bring about the rapid demise of Unit 1″. .
This concludes my third part investigation into British art. in my concluding article I will deal with some of the social realists who emerged during the late 30’s like Percy Horton and Clive Branson and the influence of the Communist party on their work.
- BRITISH ART SINCE 1900: FRANCES SPALDING .PG. 107
- ART OF THE AVANT-GARDES OPEN UNIVERSITY ABSTRACTION OF HEPWORTH AND NICHOLSON: EMMA BARKER . PG.273