Occupation: Painter, Sculptor
Education: Slade School of Fine Art, London
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Famous Artworks
“Study of a Head,” 1933
“Still Life – Birdie,” 1934
“Two Forms,” 1940-42
“Still Life- Dolomites,” 1950
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson was an influential Abstract British painter and sculptor, who was well-known for making low-relief Abstract compositions, still-lifes, and landscapes.
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Early Life
Ben Nicholson’s parents were the artists William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. His father had a decisively formative influence on his art. He went to school in Hampstead and Norfolk, joining the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1910.
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Influences
Nicholson traveled to France
and Italy between 1911 and 1914 and was introduced to Post-Impressionist and Cubist work. He was exempted from military service during World War I and traveled to the United States, living in California briefly between 1917 and 1918. He slowly incorporated different influences into his work, moving away from his early style that focused primarily on still lifes and landscapes. Meeting the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian further inspired him to experiment with an Abstract style that he continued to use through the rest of his career. Nicholson incorporated these influences to create a distinct body of work. He produced his first Abstract and Figurative works in the early 1920s.
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Major Work
In 1924, Nicholson joined the art group, the Seven and Five Society, and in 1926, he was made chairman, remaining in this position till the group ceased to exist. His first solo exhibition was held at Twenty-one Gallery in London in 1924. In 1928, he made his first trip to St. Ives in Cornwall with his friend, the painter Christopher Wood, and met Alfred Wallis, the painter and fisherman. It was after this trip that the fishing port began to develop into an artist’s colony, which came to be known as the St. Ives School.
In 1933, Nicholson made his first wood relief, “White Relief,” which became one of his best-known works. The piece was geometrically designed and consisted of a number of circles and angles. He was among a group of editors who worked on the landmark book titled, “Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art,” in 1937. It was his belief that abstract art should be accessible to all viewers and not limited to connoisseurs, made evident through his mural the “Nicholson Wall” in Surrey. This is a white wall with sculpted geometric reliefs on its surface.
In 1939, Nicholson moved back to Cornwall, and his style underwent some change. He painted landscapes and made his abstract reliefs more colorful. In 1945-46, he shifted from reliefs to linear abstract painting. He lived a large part of his life alternating between England and Switzerland. He moved to Castagnola, Switzerland, in 1958. After returning to England in 1971, he lived for some time in Cambridge and finally, in Pilgrim’s Lane, Hampstead.
The first retrospective of Nicholson’s work
was held at London’s Tate Gallery in 1955. In 1952, he was awarded the first prize at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, followed by the first Guggenheim International painting prize in 1956, and the International Prize for Painting at the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1957. He was also awarded the British Order of Merit in 1968.
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Personal Life
In 1920, Nicholson married the painter Winifred Roberts and had three children by her. The couple divided their time between Lugano (Switzerland), London, and Cumberland. In 1931, he began a relationship with the sculptor Barbara Hepworth and married her in 1938, after divorcing Winifred. They too had three children together but divorced in 1951. Nicholson’s third marriage was to the German photographer Felicitas Vogler in 1957, and this marriage ended in divorce in 1977.
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Death and Legacy
Nicholson died in Hampstead on February 6, 1982. His painting style encapsulates the epitome of British Modernist work, along with the work of Henry Moore. His participation in the artists’ community at St. Ives helped greatly to promote the place as an important art center. Art lovers can buy Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's artworks online
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Major Exhibitions
1922 - Adelphi Gallery, London
1924 - Twenty-one Gallery, London
1927 - Beaux Arts Gallery, London
1932 - Lefevre Gallery, London
1936 - Museum of Modern Art, New York
1955 - Tate Gallery, London
1964 - Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas
1993 - Tate Modern, London
Benjamin Lauder Nicholson's Museums/Collections
Adam Gallery, Bath
Fleet Gallery, Hastings
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Galería Leandro Navarro, Madrid
Crane Kalman Gallery, Manchester
“Ben Nicholson” by Norbert Lynton
“Ben Nicholson: Intuition and Order” by Christopher Neve and Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann
“Ben Nicholson” by Chris Stephens