This file includes detailed and lengthy letters from Nash discussing all aspects of his work and the administration of his commissions. At this time in his life, Nash's health was deteriorating and he was increasingly fascinated with the idea of flight, and so was particularly keen to work on Air Ministry subjects. The initial contract was to be for six months, but Nash felt that this would not be long enough to do much more than preliminary work. Leigh Ashton described Nash as "full of ideas and wildly enthusiastic about the prospect" (6). A copy of the appointment letter is at (7). The contract commenced on the 13 March 1940, at a salary of £650. His immediate plan was to produce pictures of aerial fighting (13).
Given Nash's fascination with air subjects, it was unfortunate that the Air Ministry were looking for something rather more literal and documentary than some of Nash's works for them. His first series of picture of Raiders' were well received, but the next series, of Aerial Creatures, depicting the personalities of planes, was less popular with the Air Ministry. Nash, who wrote several times of his desire to make his own unique kind of "record", admitted that "what I see and am excited about [is] not what other people see perhaps. My records therefore must be often not what people expect or feel should be recorded" (31). Nash described Harold Peake, his contact at the Ministry, as "unhelpful and
young squadron leaders and station commanders
see the value". (42ff)
When his employment was terminated in December 1940, Nash was disappointed: "I have never before had such a stimulating adventure as an artist and of course, its possibilities of development are infinite" (62). However, Clark soothed Nash - " we have told them how foolish they are... but
a certain number
yearn for the Royal Academic style" (68-9) offering instead a flexible arrangement whereby Nash was employed by the Ministry of Information to paint RAF subjects to the value of £500. This money was spent on Totes Meer' (LD 906) £150, Battle of Britain' (IWM:ART LD 1550) and Defence of Albion' (IWM:ART 1933) £200 each.
Although in general this new arrangement worked well, Nash was disappointed when two works were declined in June 1941 Day Fighter' and Night Fighter'. However, his next scheme met with more approval a series of works recording the war in the air, of which the first three were to be Battle of Britain', Defence of Albion' (here provisionally titled Battle of the Atlantic') and Battle of Germany' (IWM:ART 4526, here provisionally titled Invasion of Germany'). Battle of Britain was submitted in October 1941 and was very well received by the committee. The last part of the file discusses his plans for the Coastal Command picture (Defence of Albion'), which was commissioned in November 1941. Nash writes: "I am persistently hunted by a short Sutherland and I think it will play a large part in the composition" (204)
The file includes mention of Totes Meer' (35), initially called Iron Sea', and there is a detailed and eloquent description of this work at (127). Clark describes this as "the best war picture so far I think" (122).
Nash was particularly keen on the propaganda values of art (for example at (63), (132)) a view he emphasises regularly, discussing his views about the wider possibilities of propaganda, even proposing a "Ministry of Imagination Warfare" (146-8 these pages are incomplete).
Throughout the file, Nash also discusses several ideas for publication of his work, particularly the Penguin Modern Painters series and a scheme to publish the Raiders series through Oxford University Press.
As part of his working methods, Nash frequently requested photographic and other source material from the Ministry, and many letters concern this, as well as his comments on the quality of photographs taken of his pictures.
The other recurring topic of the papers is the financial and administrative arrangements. Nash was constantly worried about money, and there are lengthy negotiations about details of his commission, sometimes to the frustration of the Committee.