John Nash was one of the finest British artists of the early twentieth century, particularly noted for his landscapes and battle scenes. His brother Paul Nash was also a distinguished painter, however their styles are clearly distinct. Unlike his brother whose landscapes had an impressionistic abstraction to them, John was far more of a realist, painting detailed canvases with rich blocks of colour in an almost cartoonish style; John Nash typically worked from memory in his war paintings, giving them an emotional richness and resonance above actual photographic realism.
John had no formal training, but was encouraged to paint by his brother. He produced idyllic rural scenes of Britain, such as The Canal Bridge, Sydney Gardens (1925) and Harvesting (1946). But he also served as an official War Artist in World War I and World War II. He fought with the First Artist Rifles in World War I, and his painting Over The Top (1918) commemorates an incident where his unit of eighty men was ordered into no man's land, and only Nash and eleven others returned. The painting shows soldiers leaving the trench at Marcoing near Cambrai, and clambering onto the bare white ground, many falling before they've even left. Although there is no blood save for the red clay of the trenches, the image of the hunched-over soldiers determinedly trudging towards their death sums up the futility of the forward attack.
Between the wars Nash taught art in Oxford and in London at the Royal College of Art. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1951, and went on to receive a CBE. As well as painting, he produced many prints, using the techniques of wood engraving and lithography.