Winifred Nicholson

Quarante Huit Quai d’Auteuil


Not on display

Winifred Nicholson 1893–1981
Oil paint on board
Support: 676 × 1000 mm
frame: 720 × 1044 × 45 mm
Purchased 1975

Display caption

The title of this work refers to Winifred Nicholson’s address in Paris, where she lived from 1932 to 1938, befriending artists such as Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Jean Hélion. Nicholson painted her first abstract paintings in 1934, exhibiting them under the name Winifred Dacre. The paintings are expressions of colour and light, and she wrote that ‘the nature of abstract colour is utter purity – but colours wish to fly, to merge, to change each other by their juxtapositions, to radiate, to shine, to withdraw deep within themselves.’

Gallery label, November 2015

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Catalogue entry


Inscribed on back ‘Winifred Nicholson Dacre 1935’
Oil on board, 26 5/8×39 3/8 (67.7×100)
Purchased from the artist (Grant-in-Aid) 1975
Exh: British Art and the Modern Movement 1930–40, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, October–November 1962 (51, as ‘Abstract Painting’, dimensions given incorrectly); Art in Britain 1930–40, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (12, repr. as ‘Circle and Eclipse’ 1935); Winifred Nicholson: Paintings 1930–74, LYC Museum and Gallery, Banks, Brampton, Cumbria, December 1974–January 1975 (works not numbered); An Unknown Aspect of Winifred Nicholson, Crane Kalman Gallery, October 1975 (2)
Repr: J. L. Martin ed. Circle, 1937, No.31

The following catalogue entry is based on discussions with and a letter from Winifred Nicholson of October and November 1975 and has been approved by her.

Winifred Nicholson went to live in Paris at about the end of 1932 because, as she says, ‘I wanted to get to know about abstract art’. She met Mondrian, Brancusi, Arp, Madame Arp, Braque, Giacometti, Hélion and Domela. Her first paintings made in Paris were still figurative and the first abstract works, which were hard-edged, date from about 1934. In later works such as ‘Moonlight and Lamplight’ T01996 the shapes had softer edges. Winifred Nicholson painted figurative pictures throughout her stay in Paris and the last abstract work dates from before the time of her return to England in May 1938. Only one abstract painting was exhibited in the thirties, a gouache, based upon the annular rings seen in cross sections of tree trunks, which was shown in 1935 at the 7 and 5 Society exhibition.

None of the abstract works were sold in the 'thirties. Almost all the surviving ones were exhibited at the LYC Gallery, Bank, Brampton, Cumbria in December 1974 and January 1975, and at the Crane Kalman Gallery in October 1975. The latter exhibition included altogether 26 abstract works.

Winifred Nicholson wrote an article on ‘Unknown Colour’ in Circle (published 1937) using the name of Winifred Dacre, an old family name. In her abstract works Winifred Nicholson says that she was ‘using colour to express colour-the form could take whatever form the colour wanted’. She was ‘never interested in form, or shape or volume or mass to express colour’. She ‘studied the way the rainbow prisms break up white light into colour/and/ ... the balance and pose of the weight of one colour against another’. She studied ‘the direction of light and the universal gravitation and pull of radiation’. ‘Any metaphysical considerations of mine came from the philosophy of the thought that matter did not exist-only spiritual purpose-and therefore material resemblances were of no account-and that art could be valid without resemblances to physical objects’.

When T01995 was shown at the 1965 Marlborough Fine Art exhibition Art in Britain 1930–40 the title ‘Circle and Ellipse’ was invented for the occasion, but misprinted in the catalogue as ‘Circle and Eclipse’. The definitive title is ‘Quarante Huite Quai d'Auteuil’, the address of the artist's apartment in Paris where it was executed. She recalls that the street name was later changed to the Quai Louis Blériot.

Winifred Nicholson said that a gouache, similar to T01995, shown at the 1975 Crane Kalman exhibition may have been mistakenly dated 1927 in the catalogue.

The title of T01996 was given to the work after it was completed. She ‘may have had in mind the opposite ideas of moonlight and lamplight while painting the work’.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978


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