Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson was born in Denham in Buckinghamshire, Great Britain, on 10 April 1894. Son of painters, he attended the Slade School of Fine Arts in London in 1910-11, and visited France, Italy and Spain between 1911 and 1914. In 1917-18 he moved briefly to Pasadena, California. His first solo exhibition was held at the Adelphi Gallery in London in 1922 and shortly afterwards, influenced by Synthetic Cubism, he began to paint abstractly. In 1927, he developed a primitive style inspired by Henri Rousseau and English folk art.

From 1931 he was in London and to this period dates his friendship with Henri Moore and Barbara Hepworth, with whom he travelled to France in 1932 and visited Constantin Brancusi, Jean (Hans) Arp, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. In 1933 they were both encouraged by Auguste Herbin and Jean Hélion to join the Abstraction-Création group. In the same year Nicholson created the first wooden relief. The following year he met Piet Mondrian and married Hepworth. In 1937 he was the editor of 'Circle: International Survey of Constructivist Art', which he had conceived in 1935.

After moving to Cornwall in 1939, he resumed painting landscapes and added colour to the abstract reliefs. In 1945-46 he abandoned reliefs and returned to linear and abstract painting. In 1952, he was commissioned to execute a mural painting for the Time-Life Building in London. His retrospectives were held at the Venice Biennale in 1954, the Tate Gallery in London and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1955. In 1958, he moved to Castagnola, in the Swiss canton of Ticino, and once again devoted himself to painted reliefs. In 1964 he created a concrete wall relief for Documenta III, Kassel, and in 1968 he was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elisabeth. In 1978 the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo organised a retrospective of his work. The artist died in London on 6 February 1982.