Ben Nicholson OM

August 1956 (Val d’Orcia)


Not on display
Ben Nicholson OM 1894–1982
Oil paint, gesso and graphite on board
Support: 1220 x 2135 x 3 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

The Val d’Orcia is a valley not far from Siena (a favourite place for Nicholson) and the Italian subtitle seems 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 painted table-top still lifes, a legacy of the cubist compositions which had inspired him since the mid-1920s. During this period his compositions frequently spread out laterally across the picture plane, with accents of colour to suggest solid form. This painting won the first Guggenheim International Award in 1956.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry

Ben Nicholson 1894-1982

T00742 August 56 (Val d’Orcia) 1956

Inscr. ‘Ben Nicholson 1956’ on the back.
Oil, gesso and pencil on masonite, 48 x 84 (122 x 213.5).
Purchased from the artist through the Emmerich Gallery and the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery Inc., New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1965.
Exh: Critic’s Choice, Tooth’s, September-October 1956 (1); Guggenheim International Award, Musee d’Art
Moderne, Paris, December 1956 (unnumbered) and Guggenheim Museum, New York, June 1957 (unnumbered); Sao Paulo Bienal, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, 1957–8 (36); Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich, February 1959 (33); Kestner Gesselschaft, Hanover, February–April 1959 (53, repr.) and tour to Mannheim, Hamburg and Essen; Galleria Lorenzelli, Milan. November 1960 (22, repr.); Kunsthalle,Bern, May–July 1961 (71); Painting ancl Sculpture of a Decade, Tate Gallery, April- June 1964 (32, repr.); Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York, April 1965 (5).
Repr: Quad rum, III, 1957, p. 177 in colour; Studio, CLIII, 1957, p. 91; Ronald Alley, Ben Nicholson, 1962, p. 2.

This painting was given the first Guggenheim International Award by an international jury in 1956. It was painted at St. Ives and is one of the most impressive of Nicholson’s large pictures of the ‘50s. The title in brackets was intended merely as a label and has no associative content.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1965–1966, London 1967.

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