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 Ben Nicholson  (1894 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: United States/United Kingdom/England      Known for: cubist painting

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from Auction House Records.
Violon et guitare
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Ben Nicholson was born in 1894 in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. He was the eldest son of artist Sir William Nicholson. His mother, Mabel Pryde, whose specialty, still life, was conservative and visually literate. His first real contact with modern art was when he saw a Picasso in Paris in the 1920s. His first cubist paintings were tentative.

Nicholson did not apply himself seriously to painting until his marriage to Winifred Dacre (Roberts) in 1920. He worked in close collaboration with his wife. About 1930 he began to share a studio with Barbara Hepworth who became his second wife. In 1951 his marriage to Hepworth ended and in 1957 he married Felicitas Vogler.

The most celebrated English painter of his generation, Nicholson formulated his style on the tenets of Synthetic Cubism, and he never deviated far from the standards he had set for himself as a young man as his art moved from illusionary shallow space to shallow relief. His work in the 1930s was severely geometric white reliefs, under the spell of constructivism and Mondrian. It is not surprising that Nicholson remembered having an astonishing feeling of quiet and repose after meeting Mondrian in the 1930s, for the artists shared a passion for equilibrium.

In 1939, he went to live in Cornwall, where the light and influence of landscape became an evident part of his work. In 1958 he and his wife moved to Switzerland. He never completely abandoned figurative work but he stands out as one of the most original exponents of Geometric Abstraction. He died in 1982 in London.


Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Robert Hughes in Time Magazine, January 22, 1979
Master Paintings from the Phillips Collection
The Oxford Companion to Art, edited by Harold Osborne

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