Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)

aug 58 (2 circles & green)

Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
aug 58 (2 circles & green)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Ben Nicholson/aug 58/(2 circles & green)' (on the reverse)
oil wash and pencil on carved board, relief, on the artist's prepared board
18 ½ x 24 1/8 in. (47 x 61.6 cm.)
Painted in 1958.
with Lorenzelli Arte, Milan.
Private collection, Milan, from whom purchased by the present owner circa 1990.
Zurich, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Ben Nicholson, February 1959, no. 66.
Hanover, Kestner Gesellschaft, Ben Nicholson, February - April 1959, no. 75: this exhibition travelled to Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, April - May 1959; Hamburg, Kunstverein, May - July 1959; and Essen, Museum Folkwang, July - August 1959.
Milan, Galleria Lorenzelli, 1961, catalogue not traced.
Milan, Galleria Lorenzelli, 44 Protagonisti della Visualità Strutturata, April - June 1964, catalogue not traced.
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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Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund

Lot Essay

‘It is this harmony of the straight and curved lines uniting the different elements of which painting has consisted since its beginning – the plane, colour chiaroscuro, movement and rest, symbolic signs … which is the essence of his artistic adventure’ (J.P. Hodin, ‘La Biennale di Venezia’, 1954, quoted in H. Read (intro.), Ben Nicholson: Work Since 1947 Volume 2, London, 1956).

Aug 58 (2 circles & green) synthesises Nicholson’s ambitions with the relief medium in a tautly balanced composition imbued with subtle, earthy colours, restraint and delicacy. The relief is a condensed masterwork: each line, recession and projection is deployed with utmost precision, and the two circles are held in perfect counterbalance.

Following Nicholson’s marriage to Felicitas Vogler in 1957, the couple moved to Brissago in Switzerland overlooking Lake Maggiore. The marriage and move provided Nicholson with a renewed sense of productivity and purpose, and specifically a return to the relief medium. Writing to critic Adrian Stokes in 1967, Nicholson described the process: ‘The new material is a universal building material which comes from Sweden & Finland – it is very hard & unless reinforced is brittle. It is not pleasant to carve like wood bec. it’s a "dead" material but one becomes so keen on one’s idea that the dead material quickly becomes alive …’ (B. Nicholson quoted in J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1993, p. 92). Nicholson often turned to the chisel and even razor blades to score the surface of the reliefs. After carving and texturing the hardboard, Nicholson laid thinned oil into its surface, rubbing in and scrapping back layers, and then reapplying until medium and support become one.

Nicholson called the later reliefs his ‘primitive reliefs’ – they spoke to the primeval, to landscapes that bore the traces of millennia of human existence. He wrote to his first wife, Winifred Nicholson, summarising the experience of flying home from the Venice Biennale in 1954: ‘I thought the S of France & Italy looked wonderful from the air – I liked the worked, scored surface – centuries of time & man – just the quality I’d like to get into a ptg.’ (Ben Nicholson quoted in J. Lewison, op. cit. p. 89).

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