Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood, 1917

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 1154
Art and Popular Design
Production date
Subject period
  • Support: canvas
  • medium: oil
  • Support: Height 609 mm, Width 508 mm
  • Frame: Depth 60 mm, Height 836 mm, Width 740 mm
Alternative names
  • object category: painting

© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1154)

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Object description

image: Three British soldiers waiting in a trench. One stands leaning against the wall of the trench, another sits on a step resting one arm behind his head. The third stands up looking out over the broken landscape beyond. There are the remains of a grove of trees, some of which are beginning to show new buds, and rolling hills in the distance.


This work was a commission from the Ministry of Information listed as complete on 15 July 1918. Nash appears to have disliked the picture as he asked the Imperial War Museum not to lend it to his 1943 Leeds Retrospective. In a letter to his wife on 7 March 1917, Nash describes a wood on the way to the frontline trenches: '...in a wood passed through on our way up, a place with an evil name, pitted and pocked with shells the trees torn to shreds, often reeking with poison gas - a most desolate ruinous place two months back, today it was a vivid green; the most broken trees even had sprouted somewhere in the midst, from the depth of the wood's bruised heart poured out the throbbing song of a nightingale. Ridiculous, mad incongruity!'


Spring in the Trenches is almost as ironic, if not as bitter, as Nash’s masterpiece 'We are making a new world'. As a soldier in the trenches, before he was invalided out just prior to an attack in which most of his regiment perished, Nash was well aware of the irony of thousands of men preparing to kill each other while all around them birds were singing, the landscape was bursting into new life and the sun shone in a blue sky.

History note

Ministry of Information commission, Scheme 3.


Paul Nash

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