Paul Nash (1889-1946)
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Paul Nash (1889-1946)

Encounter in the Afternoon

Paul Nash (1889-1946)
Encounter in the Afternoon
signed 'Paul Nash' (lower left)
oil on canvas
20 x 30 in. (50.8 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1936.
Edward James, 1938.
Edward James Foundation, West Dean.
With Anthony d'Offay, London, 1981.
Acquired from James Kirkman, London, 3 April 1981.
A. Bertram, Paul Nash, London, 1927, pp. 240, 242.
H. Read, Surrealism, London, 1936, pl. 62.
Bystander, 17 June 1936.
Exhibition catalogue, International Surrealist Exhibition, London, New Burlington Galleries, 1936, no. 241, illustrated.
International Surrealist Bulletin, September 1936.
H. Read, Paul Nash, London, 1937, illustrated on front cover.
World Review, New Year 1946, illustrated.
C.C. Abbott and A. Bertram (eds.), Poet and Painter Being the Correspondence between Gordon Bottomley and Paul Nash, 1910-1946, Oxford, 1955, p. 213, no. 1.
M. Eates (ed.), Paul Nash: A Memorial Volume, London, 1973, p. 128. M. Eates, Paul Nash The Master of the Image 1889-1946, London, 1973, p. 128.
A. Causey, Paul Nash, Oxford, 1980, pp. 260, 435, no. 876, pl. 307. J. King, Interior Landscapes: A Life of Paul Nash, London, 1987, p. 164.
London, New Burlington Galleries, International Surrealist Exhibition, June 1936, no. 241.
London, Leicester Galleries, New Paintings by Paul Nash,
May 1938, no. 80.
Worthing, Art Gallery, Paintings from the Edward James Collection, October - November 1963, no. 48, as 'Afternoon Encounter'.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Art in Britain 1930-1940, March 1965, no. 109.
Brighton, Museum and Art Gallery, Thirty Years of Surrealist Painting from the Edward James Collection, April - May 1967, no. 54, as 'Afternoon Encounter'.
Brighton, Arts Council, Museum and Art Gallery, Surrealist Pictures from the Edward James Collection, 1969, no. 30, as 'Afternoon Encounter': this exhibition travelled.
Brighton, Museum and Art Gallery, The Edward James Collection, 1960s, on loan.
London, Tate Gallery, Paul Nash Paintings and Watercolours, November 1975, no. 157.
Plymouth, Arts Council, Art Gallery, Paul Nash Paintings, January - February 1976, no. 157: this exhibition travelled to Colchester, The Minories, February - March; Bradford, City Art Gallery and Museum, March - April; and Manchester, City Art Gallery, April - May.
London, Arts Council, Hayward Gallery, Dada and Surrealism reviewed: a brief guide to the exhibition, January - March 1978, no. 140.
London, Anthony d'Offay, Paul Nash Works lent by the Edward James Foundation, April - May 1980, no. 8.
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Lot Essay

Nash found the flints depicted in this painting on a visit to Edward James at West Dean in Sussex. Nash wrote about them: 'Sometimes one finds a pair of stone birds almost side by side. Inseparable complements, in true relation. Yet, lying there in the grass never finding one another until I found them that afternoon on the Sussex Downs, during an attempt to remember whether Edward James lived at East or West Dean. That problem was not then solved, but so soon as my stones came into my hands their equation was solved and they were united for ever. And directly Edward James saw the picture of these two, he wished to acquire it' (see Exhibition catalogue, Paul Nash paintings and watercolours, London, Tate Gallery, 1975, p. 87).

Causey comments: 'Flints and similar objects of unusual or suggestive shape had intrigued Nash since in childhood he had admired the collection of eccentric agricultural specimens at his grandfather's farm ... With flints Nash seemed to be in his element. They were found, and raised from their inactivity to become protagonists in a drama in which there were on equal terms with their environment. Not every object could become this type of protagonist. "To attain personal distinction an object must show in its lineaments a veritable personality of its own ... it must be a thing which is an embodiment and most surely possesses power", Nash wrote in 1937. Such objects are visible to anyone, but their meaning was evident only to the artist. Nash believed, with the Surrealists, that "by finding you create it", and that the object had always been there in the artist's unconscious waiting to be discovered' (op. cit., p. 262).

Causey also notes how close Nash's 1930s work was to that of both Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth during this period: 'There are numerous affinities between the work of Nash and Moore and Hepworth in 1934-6: Moore created forms that were near abstract and yet vital in a way that gave them the status of personages in Nash's definition; Hepworth used shapes such as the oval that are primary but can also be symbolic, and are by no means completely abstract in the way she used them. Like the sculptors, Nash was drawing on both abstraction and symbolism, even if he was considerably further from pure abstraction than Hepworth in particular' (op. cit, p. 259).

Painted in 1936, Encounter in the Afternoon was originally owned by Edward James, an important patron to his many artist friends, in particular those involved with the Surrealist movement. He began collecting Surrealist art between 1920 and 1930 and was a patron of De Chirico, Magritte and Dalì, with whom he collaborated to produce the Lobster Telephone and Mae West Lips Sofa. He also financed the Surrealist magazine, Minotaure, which was published between 1933 and 1939, contributing poetry and essays to it himself.

The West Dean Estate, which Edward James inherited in 1912, lies in close proximity to Woolbeding, and is now the home of the Edward James Foundation, set up in 1964.

The present work was reproduced as a colour postcard for the Soho Gallery in 1936 and Nash chose it for illustration in what became the Memorial Volume. The watercolour study (7½ x 11 in., squared for transfer) was given by Nash to the art critic, Herbert Read.

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