Throughout his career Paul Nash was fascinated by landscapes but is best remembered for his work as a war artist, serving in the first and second world wars. He was greatly influenced by the European avant-garde styles of abstraction and surrealism and was one of the founding members of the short lived Unit One, a group of painters, sculptors and architects that included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, and who helped to revive English art in the interwar years.
'Sunflower and sun' is one of a series of works inspired by the view from Sandlands on Boars Hill near Oxford overlooking the Bagley Woods and taking in the Wittenham Clumps. Writing in 'Picture History' 1945 Nash said 'Thus in the second picture, 'Sunflower and Sun', over a scene of wooded landscape dominated by twin hills, crowned with clumps of dense trees, a shaft of sunlight breaking through the cloud falls across the form of a giant sunflower bowed by the wind. I cannot explain this picture. It means only what it says. Its design was evolved from the actual landscape under much the same atmospheric conditions. There was such a sunflower and some such effect of sunlight. All the elements of this picture were present in more or less degree. But the drama of the event, which implies the mystical association of the sun and the sunflower, is heightened by the two opposing ellipses and by the other echoing forms of the sky which retaliate with the same apparent movement of outspread wings made by the leaves of the flower'.
oil on canvas
51.1 x 76.5 cm stretcher; 67.5 x 93.1 x 7.3 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed l.r., pink paint "PN" (in monogram). Not dated.
Gift of the Contemporary Art Society, London 1944
Not on display
© TATE, London 2003
Shown in 8 exhibitions
Unknown, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London, Dec 1942–Dec 1942
Unknown, Council for the Enlargement of Music and the Arts (CEMA) Exhibition 1943, Exhibition Venue Unknown, 1943–1943
Paintings by European masters: Adelaide Festival of Arts 1960, National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 12 Mar 1960–26 Mar 1960
Paul Nash paintings and watercolours:
Paul Nash - photographer and painter, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 04 Feb 1977–27 Feb 1977
Paul Nash - modern artist, ancient landscape, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, 23 Jul 2003–19 Oct 2003
Modern Britain 1900-1960, NGV: International, Melbourne, 15 Nov 2007–24 Feb 2008
Landscapes of pleasure, from Monet to Hockney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Apr 2016–17 Jul 2016
Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, Dec 1942, London/England
Contemporary Art Society, London, 1943-1944, London/England, Gift of the Contemporary Art Society, London 1944
Referenced in 19 publications
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 53 (colour illus.).
Anthony Bertram, Paul Nash: the portrait of an artist, London, 1955, 299-300.
Anthony Bertram, Paul Nash: the portrait of an artist, London, 1955, 290, 298-299.
Edmund Capon and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'European 20th Century Art', pg. 91-95, Sydney, 1984, 91.
Andrew Causey, Paul Nash, 'Chapter 15;, pg.280-294, Oxford, 1980, 294, 321, 333, 457, 322 (illus.). cat.no. 1094; plate no. 387
George Wingfield Digby, Meaning and symbol in three modern artists: Edvard Munch, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, London, 1955, 180-186. plate no. 54
Margot Eates, Paul Nash: the master of the image, 1889-1946, London, 1973, 134.
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 136 (illus.).
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 55.
Ted Gott, Laurie Benson and Sophie Matthiesson, Modern Britain 1900-1960, Melbourne, 2007, 186 (colour illus.), 194 (colour illus.), 195. illustration on pg.186 is a detail
Robin Ironside, Painting since 1939, London, 1947, (illus.). plate no. 8
Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 138. cat.no. 1577
Colin Lanceley, Art and Australia (Vol. 21, No. 3), 'Artists Choice No.13, Paul Nash: Sunflower and sun', pg. 370-371, Sydney, Autumn 1983, 370, 371 (colour illus.).
European Masters, The Adelaide Festival of Arts 1960: Souvenir catalogue of special exhibitions at the National Gallery of South Australia, Paintings, Adelaide, 1960. cat. no. 6
Jemima Montagu (Editor), Paul Nash - modern artist, ancient landscape, Millbank, 2003, 102 (colour illus.). cat.no. 90
Barry Pearce, Paul Nash - photographer and painter, 'Paul Nash works from Australian collections', pg. 41-51, Perth, 1977, 42, 48, 49 (colour illus.). cat.no. 118
Herbert Read, Paul Nash paintings, drawings and illustrations, 'Paul Nash as artist', pg. 7-13, London, 1948, 10-11. Nash painted numerous paintings with the title 'Sunflower and Sun' and it is not known which one this is refering too.
Sir Herbert Read, Paul Nash, Middlesex, 1944, (colour illus.). plate no. 31
Tate Britain, Paul Nash paintings and watercolours, London, 1975, 96 (illus.), 97. cat.no. 197