Ben Nicholson  British  1894–1982

Ben Nicholson was born in Buckinghamshire, and was the son of the artists William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. He studied at the Slade School of Art, 1910-11. He spent 1912 to 1914 in France and Italy, and was in the United States in 1917-18. He married the artist Winifred Roberts in 1920. He met Christopher Wood in 1925, and with him met the naive painter  Alfred Wallis on a visit to Cornwall in 1928. Both were to become important influences. With Wood, he became a member of the Seven & Five Society. In 1931, Nicholson’s relationship with the sculptor Barbara Hepworth resulted in the breakdown of his marriage to Winifred. He and Hepworth married in 1938 and divorced in 1951. Nicholson lived in London from 1932 to 1939, making several trips to Paris in 1932-3, visiting the studios of Picasso, Braque, Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian. From 1939 to 1958 he lived and worked in Cornwall, before moving to Switzerland. He returned to London in 1974.

He first exhibited in 1919, at the Grosvenor Gallery and Grafton Galleries. His first one-man show was held at the Twenty-one Gallery, London in 1924. From 1924 to 1935 he was a member of the Seven and Five Society  and in 1933 he joined Unit One founded by Paul Nash. In 1937 Nicholson, Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin edited Circle: International Survey of Constructive ArtCircle identified Nicholson with a group of like-minded artists and architects who wanted to apply ‘Constructivist ‘ principles to public and private art, advocating mathematical precision, clean lines and an absence of ornament.

In 1952 Nicholson won first prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh;  the first Guggenheim International painting prize in 1956;  the international prize for painting at the Sao Paulo Bienal in 1957.; the Order of Merit in 1968. Numerous retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held and a wide international exposure in British Council tours during the 1940s and 1950s . Nicholson’s work came to be seen, with Henry Moore’s, as the quintessence of Britishmodernism.

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