BEN NICHOLSON (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON (1894-1982)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT BRITISH PRIVATE COLLECTION
BEN NICHOLSON (1894-1982)

Nov 59 (Epidaurus)

BEN NICHOLSON (1894-1982)
Nov 59 (Epidaurus)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Ben Nicholson Nov 59 (Epidaurus)' (on the reverse)
oil on curved board
46 1/4 x 60 1/8 in. (117.3 x 152.7 cm.)
Painted in November 1959
Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich.
Private Collection, Europe, by whom acquired from the above in February 1960; sale, Sotheby's, London, 17 November 2004, lot 129.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Zurich, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Ben Nicholson, March - April 1960, no. 4, p. 8 (illustrated).
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.
Further details
We are very grateful to Rachel Smith and Lee Beard for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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Lot Essay

Nov 59 (Epidaurus) dates from a period of great ambition and confidence in Ben Nicholson’s career. The 1950s was a decade in which his position at the forefront of a generation of post-war modern artists was firmly secured. In 1954 Nicholson was invited, alongside Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon, to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale. The success of the show was such that following Venice, the collection was toured to other major European venues before being displayed at a large-scale retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1955. Nicholson’s excitement about the reception of his work on an international stage was clear. In a letter he sent to Barbara Hepworth from Venice, Nicholson proudly observed: ‘I think there is no doubt now that my show has “stolen the Biennale” […] I never met so many Museum Directors & art critics in my life! The USA (MofMA) are wanting to buy a large work […] so is the ditto of Rome’ (B. Nicholson quoted in a letter to B. Hepworth, 18 June 1954).

In 1958, buoyed by the acclaim that his work now received, Nicholson moved from St Ives to the Ticino region of Switzerland. The importance of this move for Nicholson can be seen as twofold. Firstly, he relished being in the heart of Europe. As had been the case during the 1930s, he once again felt part of a much more international body of artists, writers and exhibitions. Secondly the impact of both the immediate and wider European landscapes on his work was significant. Throughout the decade the integration of landscape and still life themes had become a dominant aspect of his art. As is evident in Nov 59 (Epidaurus), by combining the elegant lyricism and linear certainty of the hand drawn goblets and vessels with the natural tones and textures of the abstracted forms on which they sit, Nicholson was able hold the two motifs in a reciprocal relationship of great balance and poise. At the heart of this was Nicholson’s desire to find within his art the creation of an equivalent to the experience of a place or an idea. By 1959 this was clearly an aspect of his work that had been reinvigorated by the new environment that surrounded his home on the edge of Lake Maggiore. As he highlighted in an interview published during the month that he was working on Nov 59 (Epidaurus).

‘The landscape is superb, especially in winter and when seen from the changing levels of the mountain side,’ he wrote, ‘the persistent sunlight, the bare trees seen against a translucent lake, the hard, rounded forms of the snow topped mountains, and perhaps with a late evening moon rising beyond in a pale, cerulean sky - is entirely magical and with the kind of visual poetry which I would like to find in my painting’ (B. Nicholson quoted in ‘Mr Ben Nicholson answers some questions about his work and view,’ The Times, 12 November 1959).

Nov 59 (Epidaurus) is one of only ten known examples of curved panels produced by Nicholson during his career. The artist clearly viewed these works as a significant part of his oeuvre and often took an active interest in the exhibitions and collections in which they were included. The earliest curved panels date from 1949, among them two large abstract compositions that were commissioned by the New Zealand Shipping Company for the MV Rangitane. Two years later Ben Nicholson chose the curved format for another major commission, the three-panelled Festival of Britain Mural. The last of the curved panel pieces, 1975 (one curve one circle), is one of Nicholson’s last major works. As correspondence between the artist and the gallery owner Leslie Waddington attest, during the 1970s Nicholson made it a condition that this work should only be sold to a public collection.

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