BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
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BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)

1946 (Tibetan)

BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
1946 (Tibetan)
signed, inscribed and dated 'painting (Tibetan) 1946/Ben Nicholson' (on the reverse), inscribed again 'Chy an Kerris, Carbis Bay, Cornwall' (on the reverse)
oil and pencil on panel, mounted on the artist's prepared board
9 ½ x 8 ¾ in. (24.1 x 22.3 cm.)
Painted in 1946.
Hertfordshire County Council, until 1995.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 28 November 1995, lot 294.
Purchased by the present owner at the 2006 exhibition.
Exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Helly Nahmad Gallery, 2001, n.p., no. 15, illustrated.
London, Helly Nahmad Gallery, Ben Nicholson, September 2001, no. 15.
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, Hertfordshire County Council, May 2006.
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

In his 1993 monograph, Norbert Lynton speaks of Nicholson’s pictures of 1945-46 showing great ‘versatility’. The present work perhaps most closely resembles the often-referenced 1945 (2 circles) (Pier Art Centre, Stromness), which, like the present work, is a ‘relief-type composition presented as a flat painting though with discreet painted shadows’. Describing 1945 (2 circles) with commentary that could apply to 1946 (Tibetan), Lynton explains, ‘Surprising too is the general disposition since there are hardly any verticals and horizontals in the array but many lines tilting this way and that […] the greater firmness of the circles and almost-rectangles now makes for a sprightliness […] In BN’s hands this play of light and lightness in a context suggesting the physicality of relief, together with the tilting of most of the lines, this duality of solidity and transparency, gives his image an unusual mobile, harlequin character’ (N. Lynton, Ben Nicholson, London, 1993, pp. 195, 199).

It is often tempting, when encountering a Nicholson painting, to be lured by lyrical words within the title: in the present work, ‘Tibetan’ perhaps has a resonance with the palette of light celadon, deep red, lilac and earthy tones. Nicholson, however, stated that his titles should be regarded as a way to identify works. As he wrote to Adrian Stokes in 1962, ‘The title for me is the date but I need something further to enable me to recall which ptg it is – hence the subtitle – really a kind of label to identify luggage. Sometimes it comes from a reminder of a place, or even a person, or an experience, sometimes from some gramophone record or radio I’ve had on while working …’ (Nicholson, quoted in J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1993, p. 230). In many cases, the appendage undoubtedly evokes an atmosphere, creating as in the present work, a sense of ambience. Peter Khoroche comments, ‘The title was, in effect, the date of the work’s completion. After it he added a name-tag in brackets. The order of the two, with lower-case type except for proper names, shows their relative importance and Nicholson’s desire to avoid any literal, literary or over-precise association that might interfere with the experience of simply looking at the work. Yet he did invent titles which, at the very least, hint obliquely at the mood if not the ‘subject’ of the work – the subject being the work itself’ (see P. Khoroche, Ben Nicholson drawings and painted reliefs, London, 2002, p. 85).

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

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