Thought to have been lost or destroyed, Nash’s surrealist sculpture ‘Moon Aviary’ (1937) turned up in pieces in a cardboard box. Its owner contacted the Tate Britain in May and when curators compared the contents of the box to photographs from the 1940s they realised they had discovered the missing sculpture.
“It’s the sort of moment that you really dream of as a curator, where something that you thought no longer existed suddenly pops up“, curator Emma Chambers told the BBC. “We all looked at each other and went, ‘Wow – we can’t believe this really survived“.
Best known as a landscape artist and official war artist during both world wars, Paul Nash’s oeuvre includes watercolours, landscapes and surrealist assemblages. He drew inspiration from the Downs and southern England’s coastal areas. ‘Moon Aviary’ is his only surviving sculpture in the round and relates to his ‘Mansions of the Dead’, an earlier drawing depicting souls represented by winged figures flying to enclosures in the clouds.
Made of wooden egg crates, ivory, stone and bobbins used to represent perching birds experts assumed that ‘Moon Aviary’ had simply disintegrated. It was actually inherited unwittingly by the current owner whose family had a gallery in London. When the gallery closed, it was placed in storage in the family’s private archive.
The sculpture has been reassembled by Tate Britain curators and will be exhibited as part of a major retrospective of the artist’s work opening this Wednesday (26 October).