In the early 1920s Ben Nicholson and his wife Winifred spent the best part of three winters painting in the Swiss Alps. The practice of working in snowy landscapes especially sharpened Nicholson’s ability to modulate whites and light. By 1925, when he painted Snowscape, he had clearly developed a talent to evoke snowy weather, here through the subtle use of pallid greys, blues and browns.
This work was almost certainly painted at the Nicholsons’ Cumbrian farmhouse, Banks Head, which Ben and Winifred bought in 1924. In a letter to Jim Ede Nicholson described the impact of snow there: ‘we have three inches of snow outside & have had a series of amazing storms – huge waves of sleet travelling horizontally & going through & up & round & over everything. I want to do a painting with snow snowing slowly … I hope it’ll look like this view from my studio.’
Painting [BN 13]
Oil on canvas
495 x 785 mm
About the artist
Ben Nicholson was the son of the painter William Nicholson. After marrying Winifred Roberts, during the 1920s he travelled widely and lived with her between Cumberland, London, Paris and Switzerland. Following a period experimenting with a post-Cézanne manner, Nicholson developed a consciously 'primitive' landscape style in 1927, further encouraged by his encounter with the art of Alfred Wallis. Between 1931 and 1939 he lived in London in close proximity to many artists and critics such as Moore, Piper, Martin, Ede and Herbert Read. He met Arp, Brancusi, and later Mondrian, Gabo and Jean Hélion. The influence of these artists led him to develop a highly abstract style of the late 1930s, for which he is most famous. In 1931 he met Barbara Hepworth, who would become his second wife. He returned to St. Ives during the war with Hepworth, Gabo and Stokes and established an international reputation in the 1950s and 60s. After the war he lived at various times in London, Cambridge and Switzerland and married a third time to Felicitas Vogler.