Friday 3 April 2009

The School Prints II, 1947

Our other School Print, this one from the second series of 1947, is Harvesting by John Nash (1893-1977). It is a bright golden scene that typifies Nash’s finely observed but lighthearted sense of landscape and rural life. He was a natural, down to earth artist with no formal training behind him (unlike his brother Paul) and one who expressed himself through a charming romanticism and good humour in spite of serving as War Artist in both world wars.

Here, a field of corn is being cut and tied into sheaves by a horse drawn reaper binder. As the machine goes round in ever tighter circles, the rabbits trapped in what remains of the standing crop are obliged to make a run for it. Distracted from their task of collecting the sheaves into stooks, the other figures are trying to bag a rabbit or two for the pot, without too much success it seems.

There are so many neat touches in the picture: the glorious variety of trees that skirt the field; the ramshackle farm workers’ bikes propped in the hedge; the yappy dogs; and the curious geometric pattern of the remaining corn that can indeed result when starting at the outer edge and working inwards. In a very few years this kind of scene would be rare as the combine harvester replaced the binder, and shorter-strawed varieties of corn began to dominate.

The twenty-four School Prints were produced by a process known as auto-lithography in which the artists themselves applied their designs directly to the stone block. It was this that enabled the company, somewhat controversially, to term them as ‘original’ lithographs. They sold in large numbers to both schools and the general public and captured a mood in those early post-War years.

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