Ben Nicholson OM, ‘1921 - circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano)’ 1921–c.23
Ben Nicholson OM
1921 - circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano) 1921–c.23
Tate
© Angela Verren Taunt 2019. All rights reserved, DACS

I like Nicholson. He is a distiller. He can reduce pictorial forms and ideas to their very essence. One is left with the certainty that only that which is necessary remains. The landscape 1921 – circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano) reminds me of Mondrian’s tree paintings. He was a friend of Mondrian and knew Picasso and cubism well. But he never copied them. He took some of their best ideas and made them his own, translating them into Nicholson, the language. And if you look carefully, you can still see the abstract version of that landscape in the later still life August 1956 (Val d’Orcia).

I also like what I call the ‘estructuras’ very much. These white reliefs, the shifting of the planes from the flat surface, relate to the problems of painting more than to sculpture – teasing with the third dimension that has so obsessed painters since the Renaissance. I think I became aware of his paintings in the Réalités Nouvelles exhibitions in Paris. Maybe 1949? He was never austere, dry, or rigid. A true distiller always leaves an aromatic and delicious spirit.