Ben Nicholson
Overview
 
Benjamin Lauder "Ben" Nicholson, OM
Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...

 (10 April 1894 – 6 February 1982) was a British painter of abstract
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

 compositions (sometimes in low relief), landscape and still-life.
Born on 10 April 1894 in Denham, Buckinghamshire
Denham, Buckinghamshire
Denham is a village and civil parish in the South Buckinghamshire district of Buckinghamshire, England. It is north west of Uxbridge and north of junction 1 of the M40 motorway. Denham contains the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.-Origin:...

, Nicholson was the son of the painters Sir William Nicholson
William Nicholson (artist)
Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson was an English painter of still-life, landscape and portraits, also known for his work as a wood-engraver, illustrator, author of children's books and designer for the theatre....

 and Mabel Pryde
Mabel Pryde
Mabel Pryde was an artist, best known for being the wife of artist William Nicholson and mother of artists Ben Nicholson and Nancy Nicholson and the architect Christopher 'Kit' Nicholson....

, and the brother of artist Nancy Nicholson
Nancy Nicholson
Nancy Nicholson was a British painter and fabric designer.Born Annie Mary Pryde Nicholson, she was the only daughter of the artists Sir William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. She had three brothers, sculptor Ben Nicholson, architect Christopher Nicholson and Anthony, who was killed in action in 1918...

, architect Christopher Nicholson
Christopher Nicholson
Christopher Nicholson was a leading British architect and designer of the early Modern Movement in Britain. His most notable works of the 1930s were comparable to the advanced modern abstract style of his older brother, the artist Ben Nicholson, OM, .-Early life and education:The son of artists...

 and Anthony Nicholson. The family moved to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1896; and Nicholson was educated at Tyttenhangar Lodge Preparatory School, Seaford
Seaford
-In the United States of America:*Seaford, Delaware*Seaford, New York*Seaford, Virginia*Seaford Hundred, an unincorporated subdivision of Sussex County, Delaware; see List of Delaware Hundreds-In Australia:*Seaford, Victoria**Seaford railway station, Melbourne...

, Heddon Court, Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

 and then as a boarder at Gresham's School
Gresham's School
Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in North Norfolk, England, a member of the HMC.The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis...

, Holt, Norfolk
Holt, Norfolk
Holt is a market town and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. The town is north of the city of Norwich, west of Cromer and east of King's Lynn. The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road. The nearest railway station is in the town of Sheringham where access to the...

.
Encyclopedia
Benjamin Lauder "Ben" Nicholson, OM
Order of Merit
The Order of Merit is a British dynastic order recognising distinguished service in the armed forces, science, art, literature, or for the promotion of culture...

 (10 April 1894 – 6 February 1982) was a British painter of abstract
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

 compositions (sometimes in low relief), landscape and still-life.

Background and Training

Born on 10 April 1894 in Denham, Buckinghamshire
Denham, Buckinghamshire
Denham is a village and civil parish in the South Buckinghamshire district of Buckinghamshire, England. It is north west of Uxbridge and north of junction 1 of the M40 motorway. Denham contains the Buckinghamshire Golf Club.-Origin:...

, Nicholson was the son of the painters Sir William Nicholson
William Nicholson (artist)
Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson was an English painter of still-life, landscape and portraits, also known for his work as a wood-engraver, illustrator, author of children's books and designer for the theatre....

 and Mabel Pryde
Mabel Pryde
Mabel Pryde was an artist, best known for being the wife of artist William Nicholson and mother of artists Ben Nicholson and Nancy Nicholson and the architect Christopher 'Kit' Nicholson....

, and the brother of artist Nancy Nicholson
Nancy Nicholson
Nancy Nicholson was a British painter and fabric designer.Born Annie Mary Pryde Nicholson, she was the only daughter of the artists Sir William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. She had three brothers, sculptor Ben Nicholson, architect Christopher Nicholson and Anthony, who was killed in action in 1918...

, architect Christopher Nicholson
Christopher Nicholson
Christopher Nicholson was a leading British architect and designer of the early Modern Movement in Britain. His most notable works of the 1930s were comparable to the advanced modern abstract style of his older brother, the artist Ben Nicholson, OM, .-Early life and education:The son of artists...

 and Anthony Nicholson. The family moved to London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1896; and Nicholson was educated at Tyttenhangar Lodge Preparatory School, Seaford
Seaford
-In the United States of America:*Seaford, Delaware*Seaford, New York*Seaford, Virginia*Seaford Hundred, an unincorporated subdivision of Sussex County, Delaware; see List of Delaware Hundreds-In Australia:*Seaford, Victoria**Seaford railway station, Melbourne...

, Heddon Court, Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

 and then as a boarder at Gresham's School
Gresham's School
Gresham’s School is an independent coeducational boarding school in Holt in North Norfolk, England, a member of the HMC.The school was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar school for forty boys, following King Henry VIII's dissolution of the Augustinian priory at Beeston Regis...

, Holt, Norfolk
Holt, Norfolk
Holt is a market town and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. The town is north of the city of Norwich, west of Cromer and east of King's Lynn. The town is on the route of the A148 King's Lynn to Cromer road. The nearest railway station is in the town of Sheringham where access to the...

. He trained as an artist in London at the Slade School of Fine Art
Slade School of Fine Art
The Slade School of Fine Art is a world-renownedart school in London, United Kingdom, and a department of University College London...

 from 1910–1914, where he was a contemporary of Paul Nash
Paul Nash (artist)
Paul Nash was a British landscape painter, surrealist and war artist, as well as a book-illustrator, writer and designer of applied art. He was the older brother of the artist John Nash.-Early life:...

, Stanley Spencer
Stanley Spencer
Sir Stanley Spencer was an English painter. Much of his work depicts Biblical scenes, from miracles to Crucifixion, happening not in the Holy Land but in the small Thames-side village where he was born and spent most of his life...

, Mark Gertler, and Edward Wadsworth
Edward Wadsworth
Edward Alexander Wadsworth was an English artist, most famous for his close association with Vorticism. He painted, often in tempera, coastal views, abstracts, portraits and still-life...

.

Nicholson was married three times.

His first marriage was to Winifred Roberts
Winifred Nicholson
Winifred Nicholson was an English painter, a colourist who developed a personalized impressionistic style that concentrated on domestic subjects and landscapes. In her work, the two motifs are often combined in a view out of a window, featuring flowers in a vase or a jug.Nicholson was born in...

 which took place on 5 November 1920 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London. Nicholson and Winifred had three children, a son Jake in June 1927, a daughter Kate
Kate Nicholson
Kate Nicholson is the daughter of artist Ben Nicholson and his first wife, artist Winifred Nicholson.Born at Bankshead, Brampton in 1929, Kate Nicholson studied at the Bath College of Art from 1949 to 1954 where she was a pupil of Peter Lanyon, a St Ives artist and friend of her father and...

 in July 1929 (who later became an artist herself) and a son Andrew in September 1931. They were divorced in 1938.

His second marriage was to fellow artist Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth
Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE was an English sculptor. Her work exemplifies Modernism, and with such contemporaries as Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo she helped to develop modern art in Britain.-Life and work:Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was born on 10 January 1903 in Wakefield,...

 on 17 November 1938 at Hampstead
Hampstead
Hampstead is an area of London, England, north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland...

 Register Office. Nicholson and Hepworth had triplets, two daughters Sarah and Rachel and a son Simon
Simon Nicholson
Simon Hepworth Nicholson was the son of artist Ben Nicholson and his second wife, sculptor Barbara Hepworth who later became an artist himself....

 in 1934. They were divorced in 1951.

The third and final marriage was to Felicitas Vogler, a German photographer. They married July 1957 and divorced 1977.

Life and works

His first notable work was following a meeting with the playwright J. M. Barrie
J. M. Barrie
Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. The child of a family of small-town weavers, he was educated in Scotland. He moved to London, where he developed a career as a novelist and playwright...

 on holiday in Rustington, Sussex in 1904. As a result of this meeting, Barrie used a drawing by Nicholson as the base for a poster for the play Peter Pan
Peter Pan
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie . A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with...

; his father William designed some of the sets and costumes.

Nicholson was exempted from World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 military service due to asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

. He travelled to New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 in 1917 for an operation on his tonsils, then visited other American cities, returning to Britain in 1918. Before he returns, Nicholson's mother dies in July of influenza and his brother Anthony Nicholson is killed in action.

From 1920 to 1933, he was married to the painter Winifred Nicholson
Winifred Nicholson
Winifred Nicholson was an English painter, a colourist who developed a personalized impressionistic style that concentrated on domestic subjects and landscapes. In her work, the two motifs are often combined in a view out of a window, featuring flowers in a vase or a jug.Nicholson was born in...

 and lived in London. After Nicholson's first exhibition of figurative works in London in 1922, his work began to be influenced by Synthetic Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

, and later by the primitive style of Rousseau
Henri Rousseau
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naïve or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier , a humorous description of his occupation as a toll collector...

. In 1926, he became chair of the Seven and Five Society
Seven and Five Society
The Seven and Five Society was an art group of seven painters and five sculptors created in 1919 and based in London.The group was originally intended to encompass traditional, conservative artistic sensibilities...

.

In London, Nicholson met the sculptors Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth
Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE was an English sculptor. Her work exemplifies Modernism, and with such contemporaries as Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo she helped to develop modern art in Britain.-Life and work:Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was born on 10 January 1903 in Wakefield,...

 (to whom he was married from 1938 to 1951) and Henry Moore
Henry Moore
Henry Spencer Moore OM CH FBA was an English sculptor and artist. He was best known for his semi-abstract monumental bronze sculptures which are located around the world as public works of art....

. On visits to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 he met Mondrian
Piet Mondrian
Pieter Cornelis "Piet" Mondriaan, after 1906 Mondrian , was a Dutch painter.He was an important contributor to the De Stijl art movement and group, which was founded by Theo van Doesburg. He evolved a non-representational form which he termed Neo-Plasticism...

, whose work in the neoplastic style was to influence him in an abstract direction, and Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, whose cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

 would also find its way into his work. His gift, however, was the ability to incorporate these European trends into a new style that was recognizably his own. He first visited St Ives
St Ives, Cornwall
St Ives is a seaside town, civil parish and port in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town lies north of Penzance and west of Camborne on the coast of the Celtic Sea. In former times it was commercially dependent on fishing. The decline in fishing, however, caused a shift in commercial...

, Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 in 1928 with his fellow painter Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood (English painter)
John Christopher Wood , often called Kit Wood, was an English painter born in Knowsley, near Liverpool.-Biography:-Early life:Christopher Wood was born in Knowsley to Doctor Lucius and Clare Wood...

, where he met the fisherman and painter, Alfred Wallis
Alfred Wallis
Alfred Wallis was a Cornish fisherman and artist.Wallis's parents, Charles and Jane Wallis were from Penzance in Cornwall and moved to Devonport, Devon to find work in 1850 where Alfred and his brother Charles were born. Shortly after this the children's mother died and this prompted the family to...

. In Paris in 1933 he made his first wood relief, White Relief, which contained only right angles and circles. In 1937 he was one of the editors of Circle
Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art
Circle: An International Survey of Constructivist Art was an almost 300-page art book published in London in 1937. It was edited by the artists Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin with the layout being designed by Barbara Hepworth...

, an influential monograph on constructivism
Constructivism (art)
Constructivism was an artistic and architectural philosophy that originated in Russia beginning in 1919, which was a rejection of the idea of autonomous art. The movement was in favour of art as a practice for social purposes. Constructivism had a great effect on modern art movements of the 20th...

. He believed that abstract art should be enjoyed by the general public, as shown by the Nicholson Wall, a mural
Mural
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.-History:Murals of...

 he created for the garden of Sutton Place in Guildford
Guildford
Guildford is the county town of Surrey. England, as well as the seat for the borough of Guildford and the administrative headquarters of the South East England region...

, Surrey
Surrey
Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of...

. In 1943 he joined the St. Ives Society of Artists. A retrospective exhibition of his work was shown at the Tate Gallery
Tate Gallery
The Tate is an institution that houses the United Kingdom's national collection of British Art, and International Modern and Contemporary Art...

 in London in 1955.

Nicholson married the photographer Felicitas Vogler in 1957 and moved to Castagnola
Castagnola
Castagnola is a former municipality in the district of Lugano in the canton of Ticino, Switzerland. Today it is a quarter of the city of Lugano.-Overview:It was first recorded in 1335 as Castigniola....

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, in 1958. In 1968 he received the British Order of Merit (OM). In 1971 he separated from Vogler and moved to Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

. In 1977 they divorced.

Nicholson died in London on 6 February 1982, and was cremated at Golders Green
Golders Green
Golders Green is an area in the London Borough of Barnet in London, England. Although having some earlier history, it is essentially a 19th century suburban development situated about 5.3 miles north west of Charing Cross and centred on the crossroads of Golders Green Road and Finchley Road.In the...

 cemetery. His ashes were scattered over Golders Green Cemetery in the absence of instructions from his family, so there is no grave.

Some of Nicholson's works can be seen at the Tate St Ives
Tate St Ives
Tate St Ives is an art gallery in St Ives, Cornwall, England, exhibiting work by modern British artists, including work of the St Ives School. The three storey building, designed by architects Evans and Shalev, lies on the site of an old gas works, overlooking Porthmeor Beach. It was opened in...

 gallery, Kettle's Yard
Kettle's Yard
Kettle's Yard is an art gallery and house in Cambridge, England.- History and overview :Kettle's Yard was originally the Cambridge home of Jim Ede and his wife Helen. Moving to Cambridge in 1956, they converted four small cottages into one idiosyncratic house and a place to display Ede's collection...

 Art Gallery in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, and The Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield is an art gallery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England, which opened on 21 May 2011. The gallery, is situated on the south side of the River Calder and takes its name from artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth who was born and educated in the city.The gallery was designed by...

.

External links

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