IWM Staff
Thursday 11 January 2018

Brothers Paul and John Nash were both commissioned as official war artists during the First World War - Paul from 1917 and John from 1918. Paul, the eldest, had attended the Slade School and was a trained artist, while John had no formal art training.

Prior to becoming official war artists, both of the brothers had seen active service on the Western Front. Their experiences and observations are recorded in striking artworks depicting trench life, troop movements and shattered landscapes.

Here is a selection of some of the works they produced.

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The Menin Road

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The Menin Road

The Menin Road, 1919, by Paul Nash.

A devastated battlefield pocked with rain-filled shell-holes, flooded trenches and shattered trees lit by unearthly beams of light from an apocalyptic sky. Two figures pick their way along a tree-lined road, the road punctuated by shell-holes and lined by tree stumps. The foreground is filled with concrete blocks, barbed wire and corrugated iron, while columns of mud from artillery fire rise up in the background.
The Menin Road, 1919, by Paul Nash.
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Over The Top

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Over The Top

'Over The Top'. 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917, by John Nash.

a landscape in the snow. On the left, a red earth trench lined with duckboards stretches away from the viewer. A group of soldiers clamber from the trench, going 'over the top'. Two lie dead in the trench and another has fallen lying face down in the snow. Those who have survived plod forward towards the right without looking back. They walk beneath a grey, stormy sky, with clouds from shell and gunfire in the distance.
'Over The Top'. 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917, by John Nash.
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Wire

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Wire

Wire, 1918, by Paul Nash.

a devastated landscape, pocked with rain-filled shell-holes. A shattered tree stands to the right, the tree and the whole foreground dominated by a dense web of barbed wire. The sky is a dramatic contrast between white and purplish red coloured clouds.
Wire, 1918, by Paul Nash.
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A French Highway

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A French Highway

A French Highway, 1918, by John Nash.

British troops march across the foreground. They walk in rows of three, every man wearing full kit. Behind them are two mounted French officers, in their distinctive helmets and dark blue cloaks. They march along a road lined with bare, branchless trees. There is the edge of a ruined building in the left background.
A French Highway, 1918, by John Nash.
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Spring in the Trenches

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Spring in the Trenches

Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood, 1917, by Paul Nash.

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.
Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood, 1917, by Paul Nash.
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The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway

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The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway

The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway, 1919, by John Nash.

A view of the reddish coloured arched bridge over the Arras-Lens railway. A line of men walk along the railway line, with another line of men walking along a track up the steep cliff face on the left. In the right foreground are two graves marked by crosses and a tree stump.
The Bridge over the Arras-Lens Railway, 1919, by John Nash.
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A Howitzer Firing

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A Howitzer Firing

A Howitzer Firing, 1918, by Paul Nash.

A scene with four British artillerymen firing a Howitzer gun. They stand beneath a canopy of camoflage netting. To the right a blast of light erupts from the muzzle of the gun, and the men on the left shield their faces from the brightness.
A Howitzer Firing, 1918, by Paul Nash.
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'Stand To' Before Dawn

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'Stand To' Before Dawn

Stand To' Before Dawn, 1918, by John Nash

British infantrymen stand-to in a duckboarded trench. They lean against the parapet looking over the breastworks into No Man's Land, with their rifles beside them. There are two large puffs of smoke from artillery fire hanging in the dawn sky to the right.
'Stand To' Before Dawn, 1918, by John Nash
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We are Making a New World

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We are Making a New World

We are Making a New World, 1918, by Paul Nash.

The view over a desolate landscape with shattered trees, the earth a mass of shell holes. The sun hangs high in the sky, beams of light shining down through heavy, earth-coloured clouds.
We are Making a New World, 1918, by Paul Nash.
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An Advanced Post, Day

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An Advanced Post, Day

An Advanced Post, Day, 1918, by John Nash.

Three British soldiers shelter under a corrugated iron roof in an advanced post. Another soldier sits in the immediate foreground on sentry duty, looking towards one of the stacked rifles on the left, which has a small mirror mounted on the bayonet to enable him to view over the parapet. Beyond the shelter, the bomb-damaged hills of No Man's Land are visible, with lines of stakes designed to hold barbed wire stuck in the ground. All four soldiers have a small blue square of cloth on their left shoulders.
An Advanced Post, Day, 1918, by John Nash.
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The Ypres Salient at Night

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The Ypres Salient at Night

The Ypres Salient at Night, 1918, by Paul Nash.

 A night scene showing three soldiers on the fire step of a trench surprised by a brilliant star shell lighting up the view over the battlefield. On the left there is a flooded shell-hole, beyond which stand three other soldiers, overlooked by a woodland of tree stumps.
The Ypres Salient at Night, 1918, by Paul Nash.
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Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening

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Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening

Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening, 1918, by John Nash.

the lower half of the composition has a view inside a trench with duckboard paths leading to a dug-out. Two infantrymen stand to the left of the dug-out entrance, one of them on the firestep looking over the parapet into No Man's Land. There is a wood of shattered trees littered with corrugated iron and planks at ground level to the right of the composition. The sky stretches above in varying shades of blue with a spectacular cloud formation framing a clear space towards the top of the composition.
Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening, 1918, by John Nash.

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