Catalogue entry

T01996 MOONLIGHT AND LAMPLIGHT 1937

Inscribed on stretcher ‘Moonlight and Lamp Light Winifred Nicholson 1937’
Oil on canvas, 36×35 (76.3×88.9)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1975
Exh: Winifred Nicholson: Paintings 1930–74, LYC Museum and Gallery, Banks, Brampton, Cumbria, December 1974–January 1975 (works not numbered); An Unknown Aspect of Winifred Nicholson, Crane Kalman Gallery, October 1975 (1)

The following catalogue entry is based on discussions with and a letter from Winifred Nicholson of October and November 1975 and has been approved by her.

Winifred Nicholson went to live in Paris at about the end of 1932 because, as she says, ‘I wanted to get to know about abstract art’. She met Mondrian, Brancusi, Arp, Madame Arp, Braque, Giacometti, Hélion and Domela. Her first paintings made in Paris were still figurative and the first abstract works, which were hard-edged, date from about 1934. In later works such as ‘Moonlight and Lamplight’ T01996 the shapes had softer edges. Winifred Nicholson painted figurative pictures throughout her stay in Paris and the last abstract work dates from before the time of her return to England in May 1938. Only one abstract painting was exhibited in the thirties, a gouache, based upon the annular rings seen in cross sections of tree trunks, which was shown in 1935 at the 7 and 5 Society exhibition.

None of the abstract works were sold in the 'thirties. Almost all the surviving ones were exhibited at the LYC Gallery, Bank, Brampton, Cumbria in December 1974 and January 1975, and at the Crane Kalman Gallery in October 1975. The latter exhibition included altogether 26 abstract works.

Winifred Nicholson wrote an article on ‘Unknown Colour’ in Circle (published 1937) using the name of Winifred Dacre, an old family name. In her abstract works Winifred Nicholson says that she was ‘using colour to express colour-the form could take whatever form the colour wanted’. She was ‘never interested in form, or shape or volume or mass to express colour’. She ‘studied the way the rainbow prisms break up white light into colour/and/ ... the balance and pose of the weight of one colour against another’. She studied ‘the direction of light and the universal gravitation and pull of radiation’. ‘Any metaphysical considerations of mine came from the philosophy of the thought that matter did not exist-only spiritual purpose-and therefore material resemblances were of no account-and that art could be valid without resemblances to physical objects’.

When T01995 was shown at the 1965 Marlborough Fine Art exhibition Art in Britain 1930–40 the title ‘Circle and Ellipse’ was invented for the occasion, but misprinted in the catalogue as ‘Circle and Eclipse’. The definitive title is ‘Quarante Huite Quai d'Auteuil’, the address of the artist's apartment in Paris where it was executed. She recalls that the street name was later changed to the Quai Louis Blériot.

Winifred Nicholson said that a gouache, similar to T01995, shown at the 1975 Crane Kalman exhibition may have been mistakenly dated 1927 in the catalogue.

The title of T01996 was given to the work after it was completed. She ‘may have had in mind the opposite ideas of moonlight and lamplight while painting the work’.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978