Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)

Oct 58 (Magliaso with red)

Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
Oct 58 (Magliaso with red)
signed, inscribed and dated 'NICHOLSON/Oct 58 (Magliaso with red)' (on the reverse), signed, inscribed and dated again 'Ben Nicholson Oct 58 (Magliaso with red)' and 'Ben Nicholson Oct 58' (each on the canvas-overlap)
oil and pencil on canvas
20¼ x 26 in. (51 x 66 cm.)
with Gimpel & Hanover Gallery, Zurich, 1960.
Purchased by the previous owner in 1968.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 29 June 1994, lot 290.
London, Gimpel Fils, Ben Nicholson, May 1959, no. 4.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Ben Nicholson exhibited in an astonishing forty British Council exhibitions between 1947 and 1960. In 1952 he won first prize at the Carnegie International Art Exhibition in Pittsburgh, followed in 1954 by winning the Ulissi Prize at the Venice Biennale (or 'BN-ale' as Nicholson liked to call it), where he showed, not completely without incident, alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. What Jeremy Lewison has referred to as 'the English accent of Nicholson's international language' proved immensely popular in mainland cold war Europe, and Nicholson's overseas reputation flourished.

Nicholson had lived in St Ives, Cornwall from 1939 until March 1958, when he and Felicitas Vogler, who he had married in London in July 1957,moved to Ticino, Switzerland. They initially settled in a house called Casa Ticinella, overlooking Lake Maggiore; the house was not large, so many works of this period are drawings with pencil and oil wash on irregular-shaped pieces of paper. By the summer of 1958, they had moved to a larger house, Casa Vecchia in Ronco, where he had a studio, which is presumably where the present work was painted. In April he had exhibited in 50 Years of Modern Art at the Palais International des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the following month he exhibited '1958 (blue Trevose)' in the Guggenheim Painting Award British Section exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery, where he shared the award with John Bratby. In June and July he exhibited at Galerie Beyeler in Basel. During September and October, Nicholson's work was included in Kunst und Naturform at the Kunsthalle, Basel. (see J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1994, pp. 247, 248).

At this time of change for Nicholson, he looked back to some of the early palimpsest works of the early 1930s, including those from when he was in Dieppe and Paris: Oct 58 (Magliaso with red) has a sense of overlay of planes and harks back to the ideas found in the much-worked carved boards of that earlier time. In the spring of 1932 Nicholson had travelled to Paris and for the first time had direct contact with Picasso, Braque, Brancusi and Arp; later that year he went to Dieppe to stay with Calder and visit Braque. A particular Dieppe shop window, which was the inspiration for Au Chat Botté 1932 (Manchester City Art Galleries) had wider implications for his work in the years to come; Nicholson explained some years later, '... very lovely red lettering on the glass window - giving one plane - and in this window were reflections of what was behind me as I looked in - giving a second plane - while through the window objects on a table were performing a kind of ballet and forming the "eye" or life-point of the painting - giving a third plane. These three planes and all of their subsidiary planes were interchangeable, so that you could not tell which was real and which was unreal, what was reflected and what was unreflected, and this created, as I see now, some kind of space or an imaginative world in which one could live'. The influence of Cubism had a strong influence too, resulting in works such as Fiddle and Spanish Guitar (1933), which achieved a world record for Ben Nicholson at auction, Christie's, Paris, 27 September 2012, when it sold for 3,313,000 Euros.

John Russell discusses the qualities of the early 1930s compositions, which so strongly echo Oct 58 (Magliaso with red), '... the fastidious fine-drawn line, the paint so transparent that the support seems to breathe through it, the delineation of objects which looks casual and elliptic but is really very much to the point. They give the feeling of life being lived on many levels, and of a world in which the image and the word are equal. The sheer facility of marks on the board or canvas, the refusal to press, the absolutely individual sense of design - all of these were to recur in Nicholson's later work' (see J. Russell (intro.), Ben Nicholson drawings paintings and reliefs 1911 - 1968, London, 1969, p. 21).

Oct 58 (Magliaso with red) shows us familiar objects such as the goblets, which are, in part, outlined by Nicholson's ever-confident line of graphite. The 'nearest' goblet to the viewer has been drawn anti-clockwise, starting at the top left, running down the left edge and characterfully dragging the rich terracotta brown paint of the lower right rectangle, back onto the 'table-top'. There is a sense of cubist overlay of familiar objects, picking up on some of the brighter, more abstracted blocks of saturated (if sometimes muted) colour which were to become a hallmark for the development of the reliefs of the early 1960s. Whereas the very nature of the surface was so all-important in the first abstracts of the early 1930s (often they were carved boards), in Oct 58 (Magliaso with red) we find the surface appearing to be visually layered, but disguising the 'flatness' of the oil on canvas surface.

Magliaso is a municipality in the Lugano district of Ticino, Switzerland, near to where Nicholson lived. Whilst Nicholson was frequently enigmatic regarding the titles of his works, one imagines that nearby Magliaso must have informed the title of the present composition.

We are very grateful to Sir Alan Bowness, for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

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