Paul Nash was thirty-three years old when he painted Red Berries in a Vase, and resolutely under the sway of the English landscape. However, he was not a painter content to portray just the landscape. His art was a continual attempt to understand and render nature in a deeply personal manner. Later he would move on from this solely subjective approach to introduce contrasts, equivalences and even surrealism to give his paintings yet more force.
The man-made or arranged background provides the creative tension which raises this picture above the level of the purely botanical. The two elements, subject and background, sit in an uneasy relationship. Daniel Thomas in his introductory essay refers the viewer back to Nash's harrowing Great War pictures, pictures of death and devastation. Perhaps, five years on, Nash is attempting to reconcile two opposites: to bring together the permanency and the fragility of the natural order of plants and to acknowledge the eternal cycle of the lords and ladies of his youth, 'annual' survivors.
So this seemingly simple still life of 1922 is one of several painted during the period when Nash was seeking new pathways to express his vision of man's place in a complex natural world, a world that man could not seem to wholly control or depict.