John Nash was born in London in 1893, but moved to Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, at the age of eight. In 1910, his brother, Paul, became a student at the Slade School of Art, and through him John was introduced to Dora Carrington and Claughton Pellew. John encouraged Paul to pursue art, and the two had an exhibition together at the Dorien Leigh Gallery in 1913. In the following year, John was invited to become a founder-member of the London Group, and in the year after that, joined Robert Bevan’s Cumberland Market Group and exhibited with others at the Goupil Gallery.
In 1916, John joined the Artist’s Rifles, and served with them until 1918, when he began work as an official war artist. Having begun painting with oils at the start of the war, Nash produced his most famous work, Over the Top, as a result of his experiences.
After the end of the war, Nash married Carrington’s friend, Dorothy Christine Kühlenthal, an ex-Slade student. His peacetime works tended to be landscapes, but these seemingly peaceful scenes were undercut by a sense of unease that prevailed in postwar England. Nash was a founder-member of the Society of Wood Engravers (1920), became a member of the Modern English Watercolour Society (1923), and from 1924-29, taught at the Ruskin. From 1934-40, he also taught at the Royal College of Arts, focusing on lithography and wood engraving.
During the Second World War, Nash initially served in the Observer Corps, then in the Admiralty from 1940, as an official war artist. A year after his demobilisation, Nash began to teach at the Royal College of Art, and later at the Flatford Mill field studies centre, and Colchester Art School. In 1946 he became one of the founders of Colchester Art Society (later, their president. Nash was made an Associate Royal Academician in 1940, and a full Royal Academician in 1951. He was awarded CBE in 1964, and was given the first retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy for a living painter, in 1967. Nash died ten years later, in Colchester.