Ben Nicholson OM

June 1937 (painting)


Not on display

Ben Nicholson OM 1894–1982
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1594 × 2013 mm
frame: 1689 × 2100 × 77 mm
Purchased 1955

Display caption

After his first visit to Piet Mondrian’s Paris studio in 1934, Nicholson wrote: ‘[T]he thing I remembered most was the feeling of light ... The feeling in his studio must have been not unlike the feeling in one of those hermit’s caves where lions used to go to have thorns taken out of their paws.’ Shortly afterwards Nicholson started to paint rectilinear arrangements in primary colours and tones of blue, grey and white.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

T00050 PAINTING 1937 1937

Inscr. ‘Ben Nicholson June 1937’ on turnover of canvas.
Canvas, 62 3/4×79 1/4 (159·5×201).
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) with the assistance of the Contemporary Art Society 1955.
Exh: (?) Lefevre Gallery, March 1939 (1, 14 or 15); Temple Newsam, September–October 1944 (30); 20th Century Form, Whitechapel Art Gallery, April–May 1953 (39); Venice Biennale, 1954 (British Pavilion, 10); British Council, Amsterdam (repr), Paris, Brussels and Zürich, 1954–5 (15); Tate Gallery, 1955 (25).
Lit: Ronald Alley, Ben Nicholson, 1962, at pl.7, repr. (in colour).
Repr: Read, I, 1948, pl.72 (in colour); John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.106 (in colour).

While Ben Nicholson's first abstract paintings date, like his first abstract reliefs, from 1933 these did not become strictly geometrical until 1935, e.g. the ‘painting 1935’ repr. Read, I, 1948, pl.81. The previous year he had used abstract designs both in two dimensions and in relief for the sets of Massine's ballet to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, see Read, op. cit., pls. 60–2.

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

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