‘Ever since I remembered them, the Clumps had meant something to me. I felt their importance long before I knew their history. They eclipsed the impression of all the early landscapes I knew. This, I am certain, was due almost entirely to their formal features rather than to any associative force ... They were the Pyramids of my small world' (P. Nash quoted in A. Causey, Paul Nash: Landscape and the Life of Objects, Farnham, 2013, pp. 29-30).
Wittenham Clumps are two clusters of beech trees on top of twin hills in south Oxfordshire. Paul Nash first painted the clumps in 1912, returning over two decades later in 1935 and again in the last years of his life. The hill, a Neolithic burial site with remains of Roman defensive ramparts, holds distinctive symmetry and tangible presence of history and pre-history that exercised a powerful and lasting hold over Nash’s imagination. In his later pictures the clumps are seen from distance of many miles, painted from his friend Hilda Harrison’s house on Boar’s Hill near Oxford. Drawing the view from the window, likely using binoculars to focus on the hills, this landmark distilled Nash’s ideas of timelessness and the passage of time in landscape. Executed in 1946 Landscape of the Wittenham Clumps is among Nash’s final works and can be seen in relation to his major paintings from the 1940s such as Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (III) (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh).
We are very grateful to Andrew Lambirth for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.