Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 1… Read more
Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)

1966 (Saronikos)

Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)
1966 (Saronikos)
signed, dated and inscribed 'Ben Nicholson 1966 (Saronikos)' (on the reverse)
oil on carved board laid down on masonite
29 1/8 x 50 3/8 in. (74 x 128 cm.)
Executed in 1966
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London (nos. xlol1484 & lolbn134), by 1969.
Waddington Galleries, London (no. B1508).
Galeria Théo, Madrid.
B. Nicholson, Ben Nicholson - Drawings, Paintings and Reliefs 1911-1968, London, 1969, no. 160 (illustrated in colour p. 160).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Selected European Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries, June - September 1973, no. 58.
Tokyo, Fuji Television Gallery, March - April 1986, no. 14 (illustrated).
London, Helly Nahmad Gallery, Ben Nicholson, September - November 2001, no. 38 (illustrated).
Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, Ben Nicholson - 'chasing out something alive', July - September 2002, no. 31 (illustrated p. 29); this exhibition later travelled to Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery and Southampton City Art Gallery.
Special notice
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium

Lot Essay

The present work is an example of a carved relief, the approach to abstraction for which Ben Nicholson is perhaps best remembered. His first reliefs date from the 1930s, and while of great personal interest to Nicholson, were not considered particular saleable at that time. Patrick Heron believed that the commercial success attained by Nicholson in the 1950s gave him the financial security to return to the relief. Another further impetus was his move in March 1958, with his wife Felicitas Vogler, to Brissago, where they built a house looking east across Lago Maggiore. Nicholson found a great source of inspiration in his new environment, and the incredible panoramic vistas influenced the monumental horizontal format of his reliefs from this period.

1966 (Saronikos) is an example of one of his major reliefs, perhaps influenced by his stay on Crete with his wife from March to April that year. The Greek landscape had a significant impact on Nicholson's work, as he was fascinated not only by the brilliance of the light and colours, but also by its megalithic and pre-classical architecture. The present work shows Nicholson's trademark carved rectangular planes confident in scale, composition and tonal contrast, appearing to graduate towards the liberated colouring of the large red square at the lower centre of the composition. Of interest is his use of the slightly curved lines, conveying an organic sense of form, compared to his earlier more rigid linearity. The boldness, sheer scale and impressiveness of his surroundings are powerfully conveyed here to great effect.

The artist's carved reliefs of this period are further discussed by Peter Khoroche, 'Many of Nicholson's late reliefs have place-names in their titles: Racciano, Kos, Obidos, Malta, Carnac, Aegina, Amboise...He added these name-tags only after completing each work and the connection between the two, whether close or distant, was always highly personal, even at times frivolous. The reliefs are rarely straightforward evocations of a place: they are not so much landscapes as mindscapes. Above all, they are objects whose colour, form and texture are to be appreciated for themselves and for what they suggest to each individual viewer. They are a means of conveying an experience or an awareness, not the representation of something. Obviously this requires a special sort of aesthetic contemplation in the spectator who, if properly attuned, will enter into Nicholson's idea and so share with him a highly-charged piece living reality. Just as for Nicholson it was a question of finding and recognizing the right mood before he could start on a drawing, or of going deeper and deeper into his subconscious as he scraped and painted and rubbed and scoured the bone-hard hardboard of his late reliefs, so we who contemplate the finished work must do so with sympathetic sensitivity, opening up our own memory-store to meet it halfway' (P. Khoroche, exh. cat., Ben Nicholson 'chasing out something alive' drawings and painted reliefs 1950-75, Cambridge, Kettles Yard, 2002, p. 38).

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale

View All
View All