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I love the raw nature and the very systematic way Ben mixes it together. His work is more about the painting than the materials although seeing the sketching on raw canvas is a peek into his process. AS fresh today as it was sixty years ago.
His first notable work was following a meeting with the playwright J. M. Barrie 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; his father William designed some of the sets and costumes.
Nicholson was exempted from World War I military service due to asthma. He travelled to New York 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 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, and later by the primitive style of Rousseau. In 1926, he became chair of the Seven and Five Society.
In London, Nicholson met the sculptors Barbara Hepworth (to whom he was married from 1938 to 1951) and Henry Moore. On visits to Paris he met Mondrian, whose work in the neoplastic style was to influence him in an abstract direction, and Picasso, whosecubism 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, Cornwall in 1928 with his fellow painter Christopher Wood, where he met the fisherman and painter, Alfred Wallis. 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, an influential monograph on constructivism. He believed that abstract art should be enjoyed by the general public, as shown by the Nicholson Wall, a mural he created for the garden of Sutton Place in Guildford, Surrey. In 1943 he joined the St. Ives Society of Artists. A retrospective exhibition of his work was shown at the Tate Galleryin London in 1955.
Nicholson married the photographer Felicitas Vogler in 1957 and moved to Castagnola, Switzerland, in 1958. In 1968 he received the British Order of Merit (OM). In 1971 he separated from Vogler and moved to Cambridge. In 1977 they divorced.
Nicholson died in London on 6 February 1982, and was cremated at Golders Green 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 Gallery, Tate St Ives, Kettle’s Yard Art Gallery in Cambridge, and The Hepworth Wakefield. His auction record is $1,650,500, set at Christie’s, New York, for Sept 53 (Balearic), an oil and pencil on canvas, on 1 November, 2011