William Nicholson exhibition opens today, accompanying a new catalogue raisonné

William Nicholson - A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings

William Nicholson - A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings

To celebrate the publication of William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings by Patricia Reed, the Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert gallery is holding a new exhibition of the great British artist’s landscapes and still-life works. Today we take a look at the exhibition, the book and the elusive artist himself.

William Nicholson (1872-1949) is among the most admired and elusive painters in the history of British art. Today sees the opening of a new loan exhibition of his paintings at the Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert galleryWilliam Nicholson: Landscapes and Still Lifes (which runs from today until 4 November 2011) is the first major show since the Royal Academy’s retrospective of 2004-5, and is taking place to mark the publication of William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings by art historian Patricia Reed.

More than 35 important works from across Nicholson’s career will be shown. Highlights include key works from public collections, including Tate’s Plaza de Toros and Miss Jekyll’s Gardening Boots, and private collections, including The Silver Casket (1920 – below) Nicholson’s supreme still-life painting. The Chatsworth Trust are lending White Tulips and The Towner Gallery, Eastbourne Judd’s Farm (1912).

The Silver Casket and Red Leather Box     Rose Lustre

In addition to these well-known works, the exhibition includes several rarely seen pictures from private collections, among them The Lustre Bowl (1908), Nicholson’s first silver lustre painting, last seen in 1944, and Rose Lustre (above), a little known masterpiece painted and last exhibited in 1920.

Francis and Christopher Bacon

The painting 'Francis and Christopher Bacon' by William Nicholson, with accompanying text and, in the bottom right-hand corner, an original annotated sketch. Click on the image to see a larger version.

These works and many others are recorded in Patricia Reed’s sumptuous catalogue raisonné on the oil paintings of William Nicholson. The book, which represents more than twenty years of scholarship on the part of its author, includes detailed entries on all Nicholson’s oil paintings and the most comprehensive chronology of his life to date. Many of the pictures have not been recorded before and the majority of works in the book are reproduced for the first time.

The book includes two introductory essays. One, by the art historian Wendy Baron, gives a context for Nicholson in British art at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the other, by the painter and critic Merlin James, celebrates the virtuosity of Nicholson’s painting technique and the conceptual subtlety of this most individual of painters.

William Nicholson is among the most admired and elusive painters in the history of British art. Neither academic nor overtly modernist, his ravishing paintings are a singular achievement of the early twentieth century. Nicholson made his name as a graphic artist in the 1890s before turning to painting full-time. Over the next four decades he explored the genres of portraiture, landscape and still-life with exceptional inventiveness, wit and technical skill. Yet his aversion to art groups and his reluctance to make public pronouncements about art have made it difficult to place his work within the main narratives of twentieth-century art history.

William Nicholson: Landscapes and Still Lifes runs from 5 October – 4 November 2011 at the Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert gallery. Opening hours are Monday – Friday, 9.30am – 5.30pm. Admission is free.

William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings by Patricia Reed is available now from Yale University Press.

Page Spreads from 'William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings'

Page Spreads from 'William Nicholson: A Catalogue Raisonne of the Oil Paintings'

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