Wednesday 4 December 2013

Discovering William Nicholson

Some of you may have heard of the abstract artist Ben Nicholson he was even recently celebrated in an exhibition alongside his contemporary Mondrian at the Courtauld Gallery. Today I have discovered that when it comes to artistic brilliance the apple never falls far from the tree.

Ben Nicholson Painting 1937 The Courtauld Gallery

Flicking through the Tate Modern's collection online I came across a lovely still life The Lowestoft Bowl by William Nicholson which enticed me in and I simply had to find out more. I was not dissapointed.

Lowestoft Bowl William Nicholson 1911

William Nicholson (Ben Nicholson's father) had a charmingly diverse career working on still lives, landscapes, portraits, engravings, set design and illustrations. Even illustrating that children's book made famous in Friends, The Velveteen Rabbit. You know the one that Chandler buys for Joey's girlfriend who he is madly in love with and in the end Joey gives it to the girlfriend but she knows it's really from Chandler.... Oh Friends. Click here to see the fully digitized version of the original book with illustrations.

The Tate owns an impressive twenty eight works by this artist. Thanks to the incredible resource that is the BBC YourPaintings website I was also able to explore this artists paintings scattered all around the country and I have to say there are some gems. Lots of his works have a deeply British quality to them, the still lives include British china and crockery often brimming with beautiful native wildflowers.

 Flower Piece with Books William Nicholson

His landscapes capture the simplicity and freshness of the English countryside.

A Glade near Midhurst William Nicholson

 While his paintings of the Oxford colleges, which are amongst my favourite of his paintings, manage to capture the grandeur and yet the humanity of the places. For example, 'The gates of Honour under Snow' evokes the students dreaming of passing through those very gates at graduation. In his St John's College Oxford an irreverent group of students, one of whom leans upon the arcade, gives a sense of the fun and frivolity of college life.

The Gate of Honour under snow William Nicholson

All in all I am a bit of a fan.

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