John Northcote Nash

John Northcote Nash RA LG NEAC SWE (British, 1893-1977)

John Northcote Nash had no formal art training, but inspired by his brother Paul took up painting in 1914. Two years later he was serving in France as a war artist, and later served in the same capacity during WW2. Upon his return Nash taught at the Ruskin School of Art, and later at the RCA. Nash achieved recognition as a landscape and still-life painter in oils and watercolours and was widely exhibited. He was also a fine wood engraver, and a founding member of the Society of Wood Engravers which was set up in 1920. Nash became a brilliant and prolific illustrator. The art of wood engraving was revived at the same time that private presses were springing up, and Nash was sought out by the Golden Cockerel Press, the Blackmore Press, and the Cresset Press among others.

Nash was never limited to one media, and later worked for the Curwen Press, producing colour autolithographs, and fine line drawings. Nash placed great emphasis upon the responsibility of the illustrator to the text in question. An illustrator’s role, he wrote, is ‘not merely to make picture books but to convey by his illustrations an enhanced sense of the book and its impact on the artist’. Among his many subjects are botanical engravings done from actual specimens. These have been celebrated as equal to anything produced in wood engraving in the inter-war years. Nash is one of the most important illustrators of his time, and here he is at his finest.

References: Horne, Alan. The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: 106-107; J. Greenwood. The Wood engravings of John Nash, 1987