Amid the current flow of books on 20th-century British art are some that seek to satisfy curiosity about modest or relatively minor artists who dug in, clung to tradition, or turned aside from mainstream modernism. This may just be part of the growing nostalgia for the 20th century, but it also suggests a questioning of establishment or museum taste, as well as a desire to reappraise the indigenous, the demotic and the well crafted. It creates an aesthetic climate in which interest is taken not only in those who won the limelight but also in those who persevered in the shadows. This makes Paul Gough’s new book, Brothers in Arms: John and Paul Nash and the Aftermath of the Great War, immediately topical.
Born in 1889, Paul Nash is widely regarded as the boldest and most imaginative English landscape painter of the interwar years. His brother John, born six years earlier, produced work of quieter appeal and has much less high a profile. Whereas Paul assimilated an awareness of Cubism and Surrealism into