The fastidious and spare still lifes that Nicholson preferred in the early years of his career owed a debt to his father. In the 1920s, Nicholson began to explore the innovations in still life made by Cubism, arranging its elements, such as a jug and glass, as flat shapes on the picture plane. In the 1930s, he visited Paris frequently and met – among other abstractionists - Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian. These encounters must have been among the principal influences that prompted his series of white reliefs, which contained only the circle and the right angle. This uncompromising abstraction placed him in the forefront of British modernism and in 1937, his role as one of the editors of the 'constructivist’ manifesto – Circle – identified him with an international group of artists and architects who believed that art should have the precision of mathematics, and ornament should give way to clean lines. The later works of the 1940s and 1950s retrieve references to forms – such as goblets – while remaining essentially ‘abstract’.
Where to see this painting?
The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds
Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, LS2 9JT
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.