Ben Nicholson (1894-1982)

Medium: Nicholson sometimes uses the technique of aquatint, the highlight of pencil or ink directly on events, often working with copper formats and not straight, irregular angles. He used as well oil, wash

Subjects : Still life, landscape, Abstract

Art mouvement: cubism, geometric

Influences : Cézanne , Picasso, Braque, Brancusi, Hans (Jean)Arp, Mondrian and Moholy-Nagy

Hometown : United Kingdom, he spent 1912 to 1914 in France and Italy, and was in the United States in 1917-18 and around three years in Switzerland

Ben Nicholson with his second wife, sculptor Barbara Hepworth

Ben Nicholson, a well-known British abstract painter, was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire. Both his parents were painters. His father was the painter Sir William Nicholson. The family moved to London in 1896. Ben Nicholson attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1910 – 11. Then, between 1911 and 1914 he traveled through Europe, including Madeira for reasons of health (suffered from asthma). During the First World War he was exempted from military service owing to ill health.

In 1917, he travelled to New York for an operation on his tonsils. He returned to England in 1918.

Nicholson had three wives :

From 1920 to 1938 he was married to the painter Winifred Nicholson by whom he had three children: Jake (1927), Kate (1929) and Andrew (1931). They lived, between 1920-24, in Cumberland and London during winters the family moved to Castagnola in Switzerland.

From 1938 to 1951, he was married to Barbara Hepworth who Studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London . In 1951 Nicholson and Hepworth divorced.

In 1957, the third and final marriage of Nicholson was with Felicitas Vogler, a German photographer.

It said that he was influenced by his wives mainly Barbara Hepworth.

In 1968 Nicholson was awarded the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth.

In 1977, Nicholson and  Barbara Hepworthhey divorced

February 6, 1982, Ben Nicholson died in London and was cremated at Golders Green cemetery.

Nicholson, lived his entire life surrounded by artists, his father, mother, brother, wives. At first he was influenced by Cézanne, Picasso, Braque and started with a boundless passion in making still lifes and landscapes. He then quickly had a very strong tendency to geometric and cubic forms (geometrical still life). I can say that Nicholson’s works are often at the limit of abstraction and figuration as shown in the Oeuvre Cornish landscape below.

As said. he’s first influenced by cubic but over the time, his work will definitively be oriented towards  the abstract and geometric forms. As we can observe in his painting “St Ives”, below,

Nicholson did few versions of “St-Yves” during his stay over there…

Indeed, it’s a mix between soft and hard square forms and his meeting with Piet Mondrian has had an undeniably deep influence in his style of painting.

In 1933, Nicholson started his collection “Relief” and first painted without the use of color and in a fairly austere, minimalist and purism way.

He will, later, in the same collection, add the color and paint exceptional works..

I am particularly attracted by Ben Nicholson. Indeed, I really appreciate the purism, the absence of color and the geometrical forms. It’s clean, clear… the print “Two goblets and a mug – 1967”

During the last Christie’s auction, Thursday 27 september, the paintingViolon et guitare – 1933, was sold for 3,3 MEuros.

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764)  – Painter and engraver of the eighteenth century London Mediums: Oil, Prints, Wood, Other Subjects: Figure, Scenery Art Movement: Rococo Hometown: London, United Kingdom

William Hogarth: Self-portrait: The Painter and his Pug – 1745

Having an artistic fiber, William Hogarth, well born son of a schoolteacher turned into a print manager, is, first, apprentice silver engraving. In 1725, he entered in the James Thornhill academy which is said that he would have kidnapped the daughter to marry her in 1729. We should not rely on his serious “look”…. Indeed, William Hogarth is rather mischievous and will probably become the painter the most “biting, satirical and popular in England during the eighteenth century.” Hogarth wanting to make art accessible to all, in this way, he founded the first public exhibition venues and he is in the origin of the first law  (1735) on the protection of copyright, called “law Hogarth”. His paintings have been disseminated as “engraving”  throughout Europe.

One of his early paintings “After” shown a couple a little denuded and we can guess that it is before and after having made love, which is quite exceptional for this period …

After – 1730-31

In the series “Four Times of the Day” William Hogarth reveals his talent as a popular painter and shows London like a  place of debauchery, alcohol and games ….

Four Times of the Day – 1736

In the painting the “Banquet”, Hogarth depicts the opulence in all its forms. Again we can see the accuracy of the master, the finish of the painting is deeply exceptional !

The Banquet – 1754

Although William Hogarth is a “urban satire”, his paintings are extremely precise whatever it is, a painting showing the social decay of the period or some portraits.

Portraits painted by William Hogarth

Indeed, his portraits are colored with colors rather warm such as yellow, red, ocher, and he used rather brown, blue, black for shadows. The portraits are accurate, clean, detailed and refined. Hogarth “photographs” almost his models. His portraits are straightforward, simple, unlike his “urban” paintings which are a little rococo and crowded but still detailed. He shows a great respect for his models, and I guess a deep respect and admiration for them!

A portrait is however a little different than the rule :  “The shrimp Girl – 1740”…

The Shrimp Girl – 1740

Indeed, his brushstrokes are much heavier, more dispersed and seem to have no discipline. There is a freedom, an impressive of naivety in this painting. Pure happiness made with big brushstrokes!

Hogarth painted in order that these paintings are then engraved to be printed. This was possible thanks to the recent introduction of new methods of printing and engraving known during the 18th century.

We must realize what this work of engraving represented then. Indeed, in order to engrave, the design should be first removed or incised into the metal with a chisel. It was then covered with ink to allowed to print the drawing on separate sheet.

It is said that Hogarth had trained himself to observe a scene until this one was engraved in his visual memory to be then able of not doing preliminary studies and to directly begin his work on a paper or on a canvas.

These paintings are very beautiful, perfect, the light / shadow are subtly worked. We can find regularity, variety and intricacy in his paintings. These are consistent with the period in question. I’m attracted to the accuracy of the details and features of his paintings. The fact that Hogarth did no preliminary studies also pleases me as it shows a freedom going against the standard, against the conformity…

Odilon Redon, born April 22, 1840 in Bordeaux and died July 6, 1916 in Paris, was a Symbolist painter and colorist of the late nineteenth century. He began his painter life in the drawing which he remained faithful for a long time.

Considered as a precursor of symbolism and surrealism, Odilon Redon created at the beginning of his career a world of “black” fantastic, dreamlik. Indeed his art explored the intricacies of the mind, soul and the mechanisms of the dream. His paintings seem “suffering”. You can see goofy smiles, human head skeleton, spiders smiling or crying, angels with black and heavy wings but almost always in black.

L’ange perdu – 1883

L’araignée qui pleure – 1881

Around 1890, Redon switched to a more serene, calm and coloured world. It’s at this period that Redon opened his art to pastel, a more visually “happy” period. This coloured period will follow him until the end of his life.

It is difficult to define Redon as he is rather mystical in some of his works and rather real and happy in some others. Hard to say if he used to paint his dreams or a representation of the real life but he knew how to paint with colours and light as shown in his “flowers” paintings.

Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert, Netherlands and was the son of a Protestant pastor.

Early 1880s, Van Gogh began painting. First still lifes, like the famous potato eaters (1885),

and then farmers, miners and ordinary people he used to met. In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris, and lived with his brother Theo. Here, Van Gogh was quickly aware of innovative young artists and took this opportunity to evolve within his style by using a more coloured technique.

In February 1888, Van Gogh left Paris for Arles and ther, he painted landscapes and scenes of Southern life. He began to use more curves and pure colors: yellow, green and blue in particular as in ” Nuit étoilée – 1889 “.

At that time, Van Gogh seems to have a very positive and spiritual vitality. It is in this period that he persuaded Paul Gauguin, met in Paris, to join him. Unfortunately, after less than two months of working together, their relationship deteriorated really badly and ended with the famous argument during which Van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor and cut, on the same night, the lobe of his left ear ! He did an autoportrait being injured with his ear bandaged….as you can see, it’s said that it was his letf ear which was cut but on the painting, it’s his right ear which are bandaged….

Fichier:Vangogh.jpg A few months later, he went voluntarily to the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence where he painted like crazy. To this period a large number of masterpieces, including the Yellow Wheat with Cypresses, 1889.

In May 1890, the artist left the South and joined again his brother Theo in Paris. On 27 July 1890, he fired a revolver and died two days later.

Van Gogh let, in 9 years,  an absolutely phenomenal work. Indeed in  addition to the many letters written to his brother Theo (700 approx.), published in 1911 and translated into French in 1960, we are talking about more than seven hundred paintings and 1600 drawings.

Van Gogh seemed to be an extreme personality both in his madness and in his genius. Through his paintings, we can guess a Van Gogh very subtle and frenzy character. Even “Skull with cigarette-1886” has colors and we can imagine it “smiling” and having a good time.

Van Gogh died in the destitution and sold only a single painting in his lifetime… Today his paintings are among the most expensive of the world but during a long time he was an unknown and misunderstood painter – how strange !

Did he feel that he was sinking into madness and did he know he would die young to let  such a fantastic collection of painting and drawings ??