Ben Nicholson 1894-1982
T01196 1969 (Carnac No. 1) 1969
Inscribed on back ‘Nicholson/1969/↑/Carnac/No. 1.
'Oil wash on carved relief, 79¼ x 59 (203·2 x 149). Presented by the artist 1970.
Exh: Marlborough Fine Art, October 1971 (11, repr. in colour).
Lit: Norbert Lynton, Introduction to Marlborough Fine Art catalogue; John Russell, Ben Nicholson, 1969, pp.40–4.
T01196 is one of a group of reliefs titled ‘Carnac’ which the artist made between 1966 and 1971: ‘Carnac, red and brown’ 1966, ‘Monolith Carnac 5’ 1969, ‘Carnac, 2 circles’ 1969, ‘Carnac with Green’ 1971. Nicholson first went to Carnac, Brittany, in 1965.
Russell writes: ‘BN has never made drawings at Carnac, but he was deeply stirred by the sight of the huge upright stones, so fine in their alignment that, as he once said, “you feel that they must travel across Europe and Russia and on into infinity”. Something in these Stones was at the farthest possible remove from the dandified procedures of oil-painting and that something is precisely what BN has been working for in his late reliefs.’
The artist has written a statement (undated) which is printed in catalogue of the Galerie Beyeler, Basel, April–June 1968, p. 19: ‘Primitive cave paintings are an imaginative extension of the lives of the painters who made them. I feel very much at home with the huge standing stones at Carnac in Brittany and the quoits of West Penwith in Cornwall in which the sea also plays a big part. There is perhaps an especial feeling of life because these are not considered “works of art”.’
Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.