Ben Nicholson is a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and artist in low relief, of abstract persuasion but often using still life and landscape motifs. He was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire in 1894, the son of the painter William Nicholson: his first wife was the painter Winifred Nicholson, his second the sculptor Barbara Hepworth; the artists Kate, Simon and Rachel Nicholson are his children. Nicholson studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1910-11, then travelled to Europe in 1911-14; further travels, partly because of his health, took him to Madeira, America, Italy and France.
His first one-man show was at the Adelphi Gallery in 1922 and was a 7 and 5 Society member. Nicholson’s first visit to Cornwall with Christopher Wood was where he discovered the painter Alfred Wallis, 1928. This was a key influence on his work, as were meetings in Paris with Arp, Brancusi, Picasso, Miro and Mondrian in the early 1930s. In 1933 he joined Abstraction-Creation and made his first reliefs. Co-editor of Circle in 1937. From 1939-58 he lived in St Ives, Cornwall, being a founder member of Penwith Society of Arts. In the 1950s he began to consolidate his international reputation, exhibiting widely abroad, winning a number of prizes and having a series of retrospective exhibitions. Nicholson received the Order of Merit in 1968.
He lived in Switzerland for many years from 1958, but returned to England in the early 1970s, dying in London. His pictures and reliefs are distinguished by their deceptive simplicity and meticulous employment of colour and shape. The Tate Gallery, which holds his work, gave Nicholson a major retrospective in 1993-4.