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The kind of painting which I find exciting is not necessarily representational or non-representational, but it is musical and architectural … Whether this visual relationship is slightly more or slightly less abstract is, for me, beside the point’.

Born in Denham, Buckinghamshire, Ben Nicholson was the son of the artists William Nicholson, one of the English Impressionists, and Mabel Pryde. No doubt encouraged by this artistic upbringing, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1910-1911 before spending two years between France and Italy. He was based in the United States from 1917 until 1918 and then returned to England where he joined the Axis group. In 1924 he joined the Seven and Five Society before he became a member of Unit One, founded by Paul Nash. This eclectic mix of different cultures and artists groups was of paramount importance to the production of Nicholson’s work.

He has since become one of the most celebrated modern artists of the twentieth century and this work, which was completed in 1961, when Nicholson was living in Switzerland, is typical of his abstract style of still-life drawing. Throughout his career Nicholson demonstrated a fixation with strength of line and...

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Born in Denham, Buckinghamshire, Ben Nicholson was the son of the artists William Nicholson, one of the English Impressionists, and Mabel Pryde. No doubt encouraged by this artistic upbringing, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1910-1911 before spending two years between France and Italy. He was based in the United States from 1917 until 1918 and then returned to England where he joined the Axis group. In 1924 he joined the Seven and Five Society before he became a member of Unit One, founded by Paul Nash. This eclectic mix of different cultures and artists groups was of paramount importance to the production of Nicholson’s work.

He has since become one of the most celebrated modern artists of the twentieth century and this work, which was completed in 1961, when Nicholson was living in Switzerland, is typical of his abstract style of still-life drawing. Throughout his career Nicholson demonstrated a fixation with strength of line and precision of forms as he, along with a number of peers, sought to establish a pictorial translation of Contructivist ideas.

His visits to the studios of Georges Braque, Constantin Brancusi, and Piet Mondrian in Paris, resonated with him greatly, and his style became increasingly more linear. This present work evidences the influence and impact that Nicholson’s travels in Europe truly had on him. He stated:

‘The kind of painting which I find exciting is not necessarily representational or non-representational, but it is musical and architectural … Whether this visual relationship is slightly more or slightly less abstract is, for me, beside the point’.[1]

A number of retrospectives have been held under his name, including the Tate, the Venice Biennale and Albright-Knox Art Gallery. His works are held in the collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Walker Art Center.

[1] B. Nicholson quoted in, ‘Notes on Abstract Art’ in Herbert Read's Ben Nicholson: Paintings, Reliefs, Drawings (London, 1948).

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500 Years of British Art