Friday, 26 June 2009

Wittenham Clumps

24 April. The Sinodun Hills are an outcrop of the chalk deposits which form the Chiltern Hills, comprising two peaks, Round Hill and Castle Hill, the latter a hillfort with earthworks dating to the late Bronze Age. (Half a mile to the south-east is a Bronze Age round barrow, Brightwell Barrow.) More banks and ditches were added to Castle Mound during the early Iron Age, but by the late Iron Age it was abandoned, until the arrival of the Romans.

From Paul Nash's autobiography Outline (1949):
'Wittenham Clumps was a landmark famous for miles around. An ancient British camp, it stood up with extraordinary prominence above the river at Shillingford. There were two hills, both dome-like and each planted with a thick clump of trees whose mass had a curiously symmetrical sculptured form. At the foot of these hills grew the dense wood of Wittenham, part of the early forest where the polecat still yelled in the night hours.
'Ever since I remember them the Clumps had meant something to me. I felt their importance long before I knew their history. They eclipsed the impression of all the early landscapes I knew. This, I am certain was due almost entirely to their formal features rather than to any associative force. For although in my mind they stood apart from other symbolism ... it was the look of them that told most, whether in sight or in memory. They were the Pyramids of my small world.'

Amongst the many images of Nash featuring the Wittenham Clumps are Landscape of the Moon's last phase, 1943-44, Landscape of the Vernal Equinox (III), 1944, Sunflower and sun, 1942, View over Bagley Woods to Berkshire Downs, 1942-3, and...

Paul Nash, Wittenham Clumps, circa 1943-4.

Paul Nash, Landscape of the Wittenham Clumps, 1946.

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