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Western art

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Sunflower and sun



Paul Nash


11 May 1889 - 11 Jul 1946


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'.




Media category


Materials used

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

Accession number


Artist information

Paul Nash

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history


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, 290, 298-299.

Anthony Bertram, Paul Nash: the portrait of an artist, London, 1955, 299-300.

Edmund Capon AM, OBE 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.). 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. 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.). 90

Barry Pearce, Paul Nash - photographer and painter, 'Paul Nash works from Australian collections', pg. 41-51, Perth, 1977, 42, 48, 49 (colour illus.). 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. 197