Saturday, October 06, 2007

Landscape of the Vernal Equinox

Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (1944) is the last painting discussed in Roger Cardinal’s book The Landscape Vision of Paul Nash (1989). It seems to capture perfectly the qualities of Nash’s approach, because ‘the equinoctial arrangement of the total picture space is like the simultaneous presentation of an actual landscape and its dream-like mirror-image.’ The actual landscape was the Wittenham Clumps, which Nash had first visited in 1909 and which now, in declining health, he could see again, twelve miles distant from the house at Boar’s Hill near Oxford where he was staying. Roger Cardinal describes this landscape as the ‘ultimate Place’ for Nash, full of personal meaning, ancient history (they were a Neolithic burial site) and symbolic resonances: resembling breasts, pyramids or clouds, depending on the painting. In this painting, ‘taking equinoctial light as a general metaphor for his poetic revisualisation of the world, Nash invests this ancient setting with all the atmosphere of the surreal. Both real and unreal, lit up and mysterious, the magical landscape hovers before us, as we before it, suspended in a zone of pleasurable confusion wherein the familiar brushes against the unfamiliar, and the intangible floats silently into our embrace.’

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