Ben Nicholson OM

1933 (guitar)


Ben Nicholson OM 1894–1982
Oil paint on board
Support: 832 × 197 mm
frame: 920 × 275 × 47 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1940

Display caption

By using an oddly shaped piece of wooden board rather than canvas, Nicholson created a work that lies somewhere between sculpture and painting. The effect is heightened by the texture of the surface, which was prepared with a layer of special plaster that the artist cut into while it was still wet. Though now framed, Nicholson preferred to leave the work unprotected. Photographs show that instead of hanging it on a wall like a conventional painting, he kept his 'scratched surrealist guitar' propped on a mantelpiece in his studio.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

N05125 GUITAR 1933

Inscr. ‘Ben Nicholson 1933’ on back-board.
Oil on panel, irregular at top, 32 3/4×7 3/4 (83×10·5), mounted on board, 35 1/4×10 (89·5×25).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1940.
Coll: Purchased by the C.A.S. 1934.
Exh: Lefevre Gallery, October–November 1933 (29 or 30, repr.), as ‘Panel’; Selected Paintings, Drawings and Pottery lent by the C.A.S., Leicester Galleries, October–November 1939 (63); Venice Biennale, 1954 (British Pavilion, 4); British Council, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Zürich, 1954–5 (7); Tate Gallery, June–July 1955 (12); São Paulo Bienal, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, 1957–8 (2); Bern, May–July 1961 (21).
Repr: Read, I, 1948, pl.57; Summerson, 1948, pl.16.

Three other paintings of guitars were executed in 1933: two in the H.S. Ede collection, one of which is repr. Read, I, 1948, pl.49, and one at Leeds, repr. C.A.S. Report 1950. One of the previous year is in the Barbara Hepworth collection and another formerly belonged to R. H. M. Ody, repr. Hodin, 1957, pls.19 and 14 respectively.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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