Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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John Nash, Oppy Wood, 1917. Evening, oil on canvas, 182.8 x 213.3 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.

The age of artillery

51 - John Nash

Oppy was a village not far from Vimy. Fortified by the Germans, it withstood the assaults of the British, Canadian and French troops until September 1918. Although not the most famous of his war paintings, John Nash's painting depicts with careful didacticism the circumstances of the confrontation - the destruction of nature, the plain ravaged by shell-holes which had been turned into lakes, shelters dug deep in the ground, and trenches with cemented floors and arches reinforced by sheet metal, and - once again - the immobility, the void, the lookout on his watch with his face at ground level among the roots and clods of earth. Unlike his elder brother Paul, John Nash favoured a painstaking naturalist style with geometrical schematisations.