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The Val d'Orcia is not far from Siena (a favourite place for Nicholson) and while this Italian title is bracketed, it would seem to relate to the fresco-like, rubbed down surface of the painting and the warm landscape colours, although the artist did not intend a direct association. Nicholson often returned to table-top still-lifes, a legacy of Cubist composition which had inspired him since the mid twenties. During this period his compositions frequently spread out laterally across the picture plane. Also characteristic is the depiction of objects on the table in overlapping outline, with accents of colour to suggest solid form. In 1956 this painting won the first Guggenheim International Award.

August 2004