Our work of the week is 1930 (plate, cup and jug) by Ben Nicholson which is currently on show in the Fitzwilliam Museum Beauty & Balance display.
Ben Nicholson, talking about his father the painter William Nicholson said “I owe a lot to my father – especially to his poetic idea and to his still-life theme. That didn’t come from Cubism, as some people think, but from my father – not only from what he did as a painter but from the very beautiful striped and spotted jugs and mugs and goblets, and octagonal and hexagonal glass objects which he collected. Having those things throughout the house was an unforgettable early experience for me.”
Nicholson had little formal artistic training, except for one term at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London in 1911, where he began working with jugs, cups, mugs and bottles, frequent subjects of his later work.
In the early 1930s Nicholson developed his distinctive version of Cubist composition. In 1932 he and sculptor Barbara Hepworth visited Picasso in Paris. Around this time Nicholson adopted late Cubist devices such as decorative patterning (multi-coloured spots, lines and diamond shapes), intersecting forms to create a flattened pictorial space, a flowing, incised line, and the addition of materials like sand to give his paint a more physical presence. All were techniques learned from Picasso and, importantly, his fellow-Cubist Georges Braque with whom Nicholson would develop a closer personal connection.