BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)

1945 (St Ives)

BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
1945 (St Ives)
signed, inscribed and dated 'St Ives/Ben Nicholson/1945', signed again and inscribed again 'Nicholson/3 Mall Studios/Parkhill Rd/London NW3' (on the reverse)
oil, pencil and gouache on board
11 ½ x 18 3/8 in. (29.2 x 46.7 cm.)
Painted in 1945.
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Private collection, London.
Private collection, Los Angeles.
with Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, where purchased by the present owner in 2006.
London, Lefevre Gallery, Ben Nicholson: Paintings & Reliefs 1939-1945, October 1945, no. 70, as 'St Ives, Cornwall'.
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.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work measures 11 1/2 x 18 3/8 in. (29.2 x 46.7 cm.) and not as stated in the printed and e-catalogue.

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Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Framed by an alcove and window sill to the left, and the edge of a curtain to the right 1945 (St Ives) shows a still life arrangement with bottle, goblet, mug and flag overlooking the chimneypots and houses of St Ives from Nicholson’s house. Just beyond, the beached fishing boats in vivid red, with grass behind, whilst in the far distance a fishing schooner heads out to sea in full sail. The gesso-prepared board, has been scumbled and scraped back to create a surface not dissimilar to weathered stone, with a very subtle difference between the internal and external elements of the painting. Typical of his works on board from this period, he has then marked out the composition of his painting with heavily worked pencil, with touches of gouache and flat blocks of oil colour.

1945 (St Ives) is one of a series of paintings from the mid-1940s in which Nicholson combines still life with landscape themes, playing one kind of pictorial structure off against another. In this painting, he has chosen just those elements which define structure and evoke space, enough to capture the complexity of the still life in the foreground with the jumble of roofs, chimneys, houses and fishing boats beyond, without cluttering the surface of the painting. He has then introduced moments of colour to draw the eye to key points in the composition. This painting, precedes the later strictly linear drawings more commonly seen in the 1950s and beyond.

As John Russell explains: ‘Around this time, Nicholson began to mix the genres: to combine, that is to say, landscape with still-life, and blend the two of them with the overlapping planes that survived from his first experience of synthetic cubism. He re-adjusted, also, the scale of these things: the tempo primo of the picture would be set by an enlarged playing-card, or an outsize version of one of his favourite jugs, or even by the disembodied handle of a jug. These are vestiges, again, of French painting: the open window theme, prime favourite of Matisse, was metamorphosed in terms of jug-scape, town-scape, and distant sea’ (J. Russell, Ben Nicholson, Drawings, Paintings and Reliefs, 1911-1968, London, 1969, p. 31).

In 1939, at the outbreak of the war, Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth moved their children from their Hampstead home to Carbis Bay, just outside of St Ives. With the exception of Naum Gabo, their move to Cornwall had coincided with the departure to America of nearly all their fellow modernist European artists, with whom they had championed abstraction and constructivism. The inward looking nature of the population during this time saw a rise in the popularity of realism, led by the Neo-Romantics and the Euston Road School. It was a difficult time for Nicholson financially, with few buyers for abstract paintings, and so he was encouraged by his dealers to paint more figuratively, with the aim of selling his work. The wild emotive Cornish landscape, also helped and, like Hepworth, he fell under its spell, witnessing a return to a certain realism in his work, albeit displaying cubist influences, which carried through his work well into the 1950s.

1945 (St Ives) belongs to a small group of works in which Nicholson depicts a Union Jack (often only partially painted) nestled amidst his more familiar still life elements of cups and bowls. The flag's inclusion marks 8 May 1945, VE day, the official end date of the Second World War. Other examples include: 1945 (still life) (Tate); 1945 (still life with 3 mugs) (private collection); Still life 1945 (sold Bonhams London, 15 June 2016, lot 48); and 1945 (still life with flag) (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).

Nicholson’s inscription on the reverse of the present work – 3 Mall Studios, Parkhill Rd, London NW3 – pinpoints the address of his close friend, the writer Herbert Read. Interestingly, Nicholson and his wife, Barbara Hepworth, had lived a few doors away at 7 Mall Studios up until the outbreak of the war in 1939. It is possible to imagine that Read, a former neighbour, may have been the first owner of this jubilant painting that celebrates the conclusion of the war.

We are very grateful to Rachel Smith and Lee Beard for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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