Ben Nicholson – artist or sculpter?

A few years ago I went round the garden at Sutton Place in Surrey. This very special garden was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe and at the time I visited, the house was owned by the Getty foundation. Within the grounds was one of he most stunning pieces of garden art that I have ever seen. A very simple white wall, which I understand was probably made from wood and synthetic board with carved reliefs of rectangles and circles. The wall was situated at one end of a shaped. rectangular pool, surrounded by lawns, contained within tall dark green Yew hedging and sitting underneath a dense canopy of trees. The overall feel was one of purity, of calm and peace. Although perhaps Nicholson or the Getty foundation were trying to convey a different message; one of domination, control and manipulation.

Yesterday, I went to an exhibition that showed some of the art works of Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson. I hadn’t realised that Nicholson was also famous for his paintings. The exhibition explored the influence of Wallis on Nicholson’s early work. To me the work of Wallis. which were mostly  seascapes, was very simple and very naive. Nicholson may have explored this style for a while but he then became influenced by Modernism, Cubism and by his friend Mondrian. He was influenced by the landscape and his paintings from the 1940s often show a landscape observed through a window.

Although I enjoyed the exhibition, the art didn’t affect me in the way that his sculpture did. To me, his pictures were quite unremarkable and instantly forgettable, however his white wall, is imprinted on my mind forever.

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7 Responses to Ben Nicholson – artist or sculpter?

  1. Jake says:

    Nice comparison of Nicholson’s sculpture and painting. I’m currently doing a comparison of Nicholson and Kandinsky, who was pushing the abstract expressionalism 20 years before Nicholson. I think the key to Nicholson’s wood reliefs (which are my favourite of his works) comes from Barbara Hepworth, whom he was romantically involved with after the breakdown of his marriage, she was a sculptor who studied with Henry Moore, that and his visit to Paris a year before the production of his first wood relief. I love your picture of his piece in Sutton Place, must try and visit sometime.

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