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 × 2135 × 3 mm
Purchased 1965

Display caption

In the 1930s Ben Nicholson was a leading figure in abstract non-representational art. During the 1950s he largely returned to still-life and landscape motifs, using flat planesof thinly painted colour to activate the composition. For the artist and critic Patrick Heron this approach appeared by the mid-1950s to be ‘too clinically precise’. He claimed to prefer an expressive ‘space-creating’ handling of paint over the ‘smooth, cold, clear, hard’ application of paint in Nicholson’s work.

Gallery label, April 2019

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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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