thinking about archaeology

Paul Nash: A Private World

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Abbott and Holder are selling some terrific Paul Nash photographic prints. They were shot by Nash in the 1930s and 40s, and include well-known images of dead trees, a lovely ploughed field and archaeological sites. They are asking £9,250 for 25 prints, from an edition published in 1978 by Fischer Fine Art, as A Private World: Photographs by Paul Nash. If that doesn’t come off, they will sell them separately. Here are a few:

First are two images of the White Horse at Uffington, c.1937 (top and below):

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This is a “Monster Field”, at Carswall’s Farm, Gloucestershire, 1938:

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The “Avebury Sentinel”, 1933:

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My last selection was apparently described by Fischer, or this description was perhaps given it by Tate, as “Rock recessed in grass (Portland?)”). But it’s actually another Avebury shot. Nash visited Avebury in the late 30s when Alexander Keiller was in full flight, ripping up trees and hedges, knocking down houses and raising megaliths, and setting them in concrete. Nash didn’t like it. But he took this photo. It appears to show the edge of a sarsen megalith in the medieval pit into which it was thrown: the dark colours suggest burning, which could mean it was buried and burnt in the 18th century, but that usually resulted in the stones being broken up. There should be photos of this stone in the museum in Avebury, taken by Keiller, which will reveal its story; it is now presumably erect.

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In some ways the Private World selection tells us as much about John Piper (who made it) as Nash – here there are no aeroplanes (active and wrecked), people or cars that are so distinctive of the large collection of Nash’s negatives at Tate Britain. This includes two more of those “Portland” stones, at Keiller’s Avebury excavations:

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There are couple of quasi-abstract images at Wheeler’s excavations at Maiden Castle in 1935, and these two fabulous shots at the “war cemetery”:

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And (serious archaeological alert), a young “Lance Sieveking in bathing trunks”.

All photos, of course, are by Paul Nash, and the rest of the set of 25 can be seen on Abbott and Holders’ website.

2 responses

  1. Neil Wiseman

    Hi Mike,

    Great shots from a great collection. If anything, they recall Alfred Stieglitz, as even the ‘Documentary’ shots have that artistic flair.

    Rather whimsically at this stage of the game 80 years on, I’d be interested to learn what lens was used in the skeleton shots, as the foreshortening suggests a much longer focal length than was usual in those days. (Notice the out-sized leg bones.)

    Neil

    August 3, 2016 at 3:12 pm

  2. mikepitts

    He is said to have used only a No 1A Pocket Kodak Series II, through the 1930s and 40s (he died in 1947), in production between 1923 and 1931 and given to him by his wife.

    August 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm

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