Nash, Paul (1889-1946), 'The Mine Crater, Hill 60, Ypres Salient', Lithograph, 1917

'The Mine Crater, Hill 60, Ypres Salient', Lithograph, 1917

Signed, titled, dated ‘December 1917’ and numbered ‘21/25’ by the artist in pencil.

Printed on watermarked ‘Antique Deluxe’ laid paper.

This lithograph is the first of Nash’s seven war lithographs and is based on his 1917 watercolour, ‘Caterpillar Crater’ (Causey 165).

Paul Nash joined the Artists Rifles in September 1914, he initially stayed in London, but finally began officer training in August 1916, and was sent to the Western Front in February 1917. He fought here until 25 May 1917 when he fell and broke a rib and had to be invalided back to London. After his recovery, in November 1917 he returned to the Ypres Salient as an official war artist recording the war in Flanders.

The print depicts the crater of Hill 60, the result of one of the largest explosions in history which took place in June 1917. Nineteen mines filled with 990,000 lbs of explosives were detonated under Hill 60 at 3.10 a.m., the explosion was reportedly heard in London and even Dublin. The event was described by an eyewitness, ‘nineteen gigantic red roses sprang suddenly from the ground and, as their crimson petals fell apart, flames of all colours of the rainbow, ending in brilliant white. towered upwards’. After the blast, 2000 artillery guns opened fire and 100,000 Allied troops stormed the German lines. The operation was a success: the Germans were pushed back and the Allies captured the high ground overlooking Ypres. After Nash’s accident and return to London the majority of his former unit were killed in an assault on Hill 60, so the site held a personal significance for him.

Nash’s war lithographs were first shown at the Leicester Galleries in London in 1918. Arnold Bennett wrote in the exhibition catalogue, ‘Lieutenant Nash has seen the Front simply and largely. The convention he uses is ruthlessly selective; the wave-like formation of shell-holes, the curves of shell-bursts, the straight lines and sharply defined angles of wooden causeways, decapitated trees, the fangs of obdurate masonry, the weight of heavy skies ...’

Image Size 35.7 x 45.5 cm
Sheet Size 46.4 x 52.1 cm
Reference Postan L1
Collections British Council; British Museum; Imperial War Museum; V & A; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Australian War Memorial

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