Ben Nicholson OM

1932 (painting)


Not on display

Ben Nicholson OM 1894–1982
Oil paint, graphite and gesso on hardboard
Support: 746 × 1200 mm
frame: 800 × 1255 × 60 mm
Presented by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1970

Display caption

In 1932 Nicholson visited Paris and saw work by Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Hans Arp. He described their effect on him as ‘a new freedom ... a kind of liberation’.

Incised lines dance into and along the surface of this painting. The lines are fluid, playful and largely non-descriptive (although outlines of bodies can perhaps be read into this painting). Nicholson is occupied here with conveying the painting’s status as a physical object. In discarding the need for representation, Nicholson’s aim was ‘to animate a thing, to create new life by marrying idea to a physical object’.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

T01189 PAINTING 1932 1932
Inscribed on reverse by artist ‘[arrow] TOP BEN NICHOLSON 1932’ and ‘property of Barbara Hepworth.’ Oil, pencil and gesso on hardboard, 29⅜×47¼ (74.5×120).
Presented by Dame Barbara Hepworth 1970.

Coll: Given by the artist to Dame Barbara Hepworth in 1932 or 1933.

Exh: British Contemporary Paintings, British Council tour of Brussels, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Luxembourg, 1948–49; British section 3rd International Art Exhibition, Tokyo 1955 and tour of Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka (no catalogue numbers); British Art and the Modern Movement 1930–40, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, October–November 1962 (32).
Repr: J P Hodin, Ben Nicholson, 1957, p. 9, as ‘1932 (figure)’ (reproduced from photograph taken in 1932 or 1933).

T01189 can also be seen clearly in a photograph of 1933 of the interior of 7, Mall Studios, Belsize Park, London, taken when Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth shared this studio. The photograph is reproduced as No. 44 in John Russell (introd), Ben Nicholson: drawings, paintings and reliefs 1911–1968, 1969. After the early photographs referred to above were taken, the artist altered the top left corner of T01189, painting out one complete linear figure and making the topmost curving line of the whole composition continuous to the left edge, whereas originally it was two separate lines.

The painting was executed on the back, conventionally speaking, of the hardboard panel. The irregular screen mesh of this surface shows through the layers of priming and paint, into which some of the lines are incised.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970

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