Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
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Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)

June 11-49 (Cornish Landscape)

Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
June 11-49 (Cornish Landscape)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Cornish Landscape June 11-49/Ben Nicholson' (on the reverse), signed and inscribed again 'NICHOLSON/CHY AN KERRIS/CARBIS BAY/CORNWALL' (on the reverse)
oil and pencil on canvas-board
8½ x 11½ in. (21.5 x 29.2 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Purchased by the present owner at the 1950 exhibition for £57.10.
London, Leicester Galleries, Artists of Fame and Promise, August - September 1950, no. 113, as 'Still Life and Cornish Landscape'.
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Lot Essay

The present work is one of a small group of compositions of the sweeping Penwith landscape depicting farms near Halsetown, above St Ives. These small-scale pictures date from the 1940s and often show still-life elements in the foreground. In the present work, the still life of cups and vessels of the foreground interact with the far-reaching landscape stretching away towards the distant sea.

Jeremy Lewison comments, 'In order to earn a living he [Nicholson] returned to painting landscapes in naïve style which his gallery, Alex Reid and Lefevre, considered easier to sell. The return to landscape was generally to be observed in English painting during the war as Britain reverted to a period of isolation. The cramped conditions at their house, 'Dunluce' resulted in a considerable drop in output and in September 1942 the Nicholsons moved to a house called Chy-an-Kerris on the far side of Carbis Bay which gave the Nicholsons more, albeit not much more, space. Paintings of this period were small and rehearse and develop the ideas which he had worked out in the thirties [...] the bright palette is a development from the abstracted paintings of the late thirties. Other paintings develop the theme of the still life set before a window which Nicholson, along with many other members of the Seven and Five Society, including Winifred Nicholson, had enjoyed during the late twenties [...] In such compositions Nicholson was interested in being able to unite objects in the foregound with those in the background, allowing the eye to travel over large distances and periods of time at one glance [...] The impact of the landscape on Nicholson's work was considerable. After his move to Cornwall [in 1939] he ceased to make white reliefs, which could be interpreted as an urban art, and reintroduced subdued colours as well as brighter tones which appear to be derived from his surroundings [...] The greatest impact on Nicholson's work, however, came from the move to a large studio backing onto Porthmeor Beach, St Ives in 1949. In a letter of application for the studio, Nicholson wrote that he was working in a small converted bedroom and that 'this imposes a very definite limit on the size of paintings I can make' (letter to Philip James [Director of Art at C.E.M.A. (Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts) which subsequently became the Arts Council, between 1942 and 1958], dated 24 May 1949). (see J. Lewison, Ben Nicholson, London, 1991, pp. 19, 20).

Similar views are found in earlier paintings such as Still Life and Landscape (Towednack) 1943 and in 1946 (Towednack) (sold Sotheby's, London, 28 June 1994, lot 43 ¨£177,500) where again Nicholson used the division of the distant fields to interact with his still life composition.

An inscription written by the painter Patrick Heron on the backboard of the present composition, 'TOWEDNACK', confirms the location of the view that Nicholson captured. Peter Meyer recalled his meeting with Ben Nicholson, 'I only met him once, at dinner at the Heron's. I gave him a lift and took him home to see the picture of his. Patrick has since identified the site and has written the name on the back' (private correspondence).

We are grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance in preparing the catalogue entries for lots 66 and 113A.

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