From the Victorian Moral Maze to Post War Britain

The spirits of any one time or the zeitgeist is captured in the objects people produce. In the field of art history this spirit is often articulated through a constantly evolving style. Historians like to pick dates and events from the past which wobbled or even shifted the zeitgeist onto a different track and from these points of view frame their arguments. I would like to put forward ‘turning points’ and 20th Century material culture as a starting point for this new year of Secret Lives of Objects.

At the starting blocks is Paul Nash and his painting ‘The Shore’.

Paul Nash (1889 – 1948)
The Shore
Oil on canvas

Before the Great War of 1914 – 1919 Paul Nash’s landscape paintings celebrated the purity of nature and its primeval history. Injured at Ypres in 1917 he was posted back to London but then became an official war artist and was sent back to the front. His experience in the trenches marked him for life and is openly recorded in his paintings. In 1919 he ironically named a painting ‘We are Making a New World’ that depicted a bomb-blasted landscape. ‘The Shore’ depicts the coastline at Dymchurch in Kent, as a bleak, post-apocalyptic view.

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