This is the Cabinet’s second ‘graphic novel ballad’ developed in 2016. The ballad tells the story of Nash and Eileen Agar’s affair in Dorset in the mid 30’s through their relationship with the Purbeck world which enchanted them; objects washed up on the beach they endowed with personalities, strange rock shapes with animistic qualities, fossils like ghosts embedded in the ancient strata, a landscape made surreal both by quarrying and the remnants of ancient geology.
Eileen gave Nash a box of painted shells in 1935. He was enraptured with the gift and with her. She became his muse, an “exquisite stone that could fly”, though their flight was not to last and later letters revels Nash’s desperation at her decision to end the affair.This encounter with Eileen in Dorset represents one of the most significant waymarks in Nash’s journey to a new form of painting that would use the oneiric juxtaposition of continental surrealism to bring together a host of animistic objects from the English landscape: megalithic stones, serpent-like flowers, totemic found objects, the sun, the moon, the tides. He was a painter-poet in the tradition of Blake and began to infuse his paintings with this wealth of symbols, creating a new language for English landscape painting. These developments concluded in Nash’s most accomplished cycle of work in the years preceding his death in Boscombe, Dorset, 1946, where he declared once more to be within reach of “his kingdom”.In addition to exploring Nash and Ager’s relationship, our fable also explores Nash’s rehabilitation after the death of his father and his experiences in the trenches in 1917, in particular, the guilt he may have harboured knowing that his entire company had been wiped out shortly after he was invalided in May 1917. Nash’s paintings are preoccupied by the symbolism of death, rebirth and flight and his journey in the 30s represents a kind of awakening after a long period of psychical trauma: “unless I somehow drown, I shall spread my wings”.