During the early 1920s Nicholson spent a considerable time abroad, becoming acquainted with modern French painting – with Cézanne, Picasso and Braque in particular – and with work of the Italian Renaissance artists Giotto, Uccello, and Piero della Francesca. All of these were to have an influence on his ideas about art. Particularly as expressed in the still-lifes he painted during this period. This painting comes from this experimental stage in Nicholson's career, and illustrates his developing concern with the way simple, trivial objects are formalised into expressions of durability, stillness and permanence. Nicholson never merely describes an object: he suggests it through outline and a sense of the relationships it forms with the elements that surround it. The grapes in the bowl bulge and ripple over the firmer, more solid shapes of the table-top; the legs of the table are no more than stilts to keep the whole thing propped up. Objects are reduced from three dimensions to two; their volume is ironed out; they can be seen as simply flat planes, rather as in the process of preserving fruit (or leather, or wood, or any other matter), where water, the element that gives an object bulk, is removed, and the substance dried so that it lies flat in its concentrated form. In this early still life the artist is caught, as it were, in the act of simplifying. The background and table top have been reduced to a single plane, but the fruit bowl still retains its roundness, its disparity with the general move towards a unified scheme.
Where to see this painting?
British Council Collection
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