The next project I am embarking on is one of John Nash’s buildings. I have had a book on Nash, edited by Geoffrey Tyack, for some time. It has been sitting on my desk with the beautiful photo of Cronkhill on the cover staring at me. It seemed like a good idea to follow my Leo von Klenze paintings with something closer to home.
I decided to make him my next subject rather as I did with Lutyens, without thoroughly considering what it would entail. Now, as I start drawing up Nash’s buildings, I notice there are 287 entries in Michael Mansbridge’s Complete Catalogue, many of which include multiple buildings such as Regent’s Street for instance which includes dozens of buildings under one heading. I think Nash might be even more prolific than Lutyens.
The other aspect that is challenging is much of his work needs to be seen in context, of say for instance Regent’s Park, not as isolated buildings taken out of context. Nash was himself aware of the problem of depicting his work in context as he produced two panoramas of his buildings lining Regent’s Park, four inches high and twelve feet long – each. The extreme length of his terraces on Regent’s Park and the continuous line of development from the Park to Buckingham Palace raise serious compositional problems that as yet do not have obvious solutions. I think I must have a way of incorporating the map of the West End showing the extent of this development and the boldness of it, which would probably not be possible as a straightforward view.
The first step, to familiarise myself with the work is to see as much as I can, and draw it up to scale as well as reading as much as I can find about him. I have started this and started sticking up the drawings at the same scale in relation to each other. The first shock is the length of the terraces. At the same 1:200 scale I used for Lutyens, some of Nash’s terraces would go half way across the painting, making it impossible to show in relation to each other. So I think I will have to reduce the scale, but do not want to create a composition of “postage stamps”, little images that do not convey the detail of the buildings. Having a long panorama in the distance at a small scale and foreground buildings at a larger scale would be a possible approach.
Meanwhile, visiting Brighton, I saw some wonderful detail drawings of the tent roofs on the Pavilion and was sent copies by the curator. They are truly wonderful drawings and I must find a way to incorporate them. Perhaps used as a drawing they could combine with a drawn map of the West End, giving a two dimensional portion of the painting that could intensify the three dimensionally rendered portion.
I am greatly encouraged to find that Ian Nairn dedicated Nairn’s London “To John Nash, who provided much of the material, and to Tony Godwin, who gave me the chance to write about it.”
Perhaps there is a patron out there who will give me the chance to paint this! It is going to be a long project with a lot of travelling. To have it commissioned would make it much more possible.
Royal Pavilion with section through tent roofed Banqueting Room:
As I slowly put together the drawings of Nash’’s buildings, I decided to do some smaller paintings of related individual buildings. They not only add to the possibility of a larger exhibition on Nash, give me greater familiarity with his work before starting on the large capriccio, but also keep me in “training” for painting. A prolonged break from painting while I draw up the Nash buildings would leave me out of condition as a painter when it came to tackling the large work. Painting is like practicing an instrument or a sport, and it is easy to become rusty.