Born at Denham, Buckinghamshire, the son of painters William NICHOLSON and Mabel PRYDE. Nicholson met Paul Nash at the Slade (1910-11) but, was otherwise without formal training. He travelled in France, Italy, Spain and California between 1911 and 1918, but became serious about painting only after 1920 when he married artist Winifred Roberts, and shortly thereafter began abstract paintings influenced by Synthetic Cubism. His association with Barbara HEPWORTH and Henry MOORE dates from 1931 when he was living in London.

With Hepworth he visited in France and met Arp, Brancusi, Braque and Picasso. Later he was encouraged to join Abstraction-Creation and met Piet Mondrian. He exhibited with the Seven and Five Society.Nicholson married Barbara HEPWORTH in 1934, and was co-editor of Circle, the constructivist art magazine in 1937.

The couple moved to Carbis Bay, Cornwall, at the outbreak of War in 1939. In Cornwall he returned to painting landscapes, but added colour to his abstract reliefs previously devised in his constructivist period. Persuaded to join STISA by Borlase SMART in 1944, Nicholson tried to influence the direction of STISA after Smart's death, and was instrumental behind-the-scenes in the split of STISA, being a founder Member of the Penwith Society of Arts. Though not universally liked, he was a great influence on many young artists in St Ives, including Wilhelmina BARNS-GRAHAM, George Peter LANYON and Sven BERLIN. His marriage to Barbara HEPWORTH was dissolved in 1951 and he left St Ives in 1958.


Abstract painter, relief maker

works and access

Works include: three fabric designs - George and Rufus (machine printed on cotton, 1937); Princess (lino black printed on cotton, c 1933); Runner bean (machine printed on cotton by Edinburgh weavers, c1950); Outskirts (1923); Landscape from Banks Head Studio (1925); Autumn fruit (1928); Pill creek, Cornwall; Pill creek moonlight; Still life jug and playing cards; Two Diamonds; Musical Instruments; St Ives Bay: Sea with Boats (1931); Guitar (1932); Painted reliefTwo Forms; Mount's Bay, Cornwall (1947); Still Life (1950); Composition Still Life (1946); Piero (1971); Au Chat Botte (Puss in Boots) (1932); Still Life (1962)

Locally: Falmouth Art Gallery (Study of a Head 1933, oil on canvas)

Access to Work: Manchester Art Gallery; The Art Magazine Summer 1996/issue 9; Exhibition Publication for Tate Gallery Show St Ives Cornwall 1943-1945; galleries worldwide; Cornwall Council


Heal's Mansard Gallery; St Ives Jan-Feb 1951

Venice and Paris 1954

Royal West of England Academy, Artists from Cornwall exhibition, 1992

Tate St Ives 21 April - 31 October 1999


STISA 1944-49; Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall (Founder member); OM 1968

misc further info

WCAA Library


Personal bibliography:

P Khoroche (2002) Ben Nicholson: Drawings and Painted Reliefs (80 colour & 40 b&w illus)


M Bird (2008) St Ives Artists/Place & Time

Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (1978)  Ben Nicholson: Fifty years of his Art (with an essay by Steven Nash)

R Cork (1989) 'The Visual Arts' [in] B Ford (ed) The Edwardian Age and the Inter-War Years, Vol 8 Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain.

T Cross (2002) Catching the Wave/Contemporary Art & Artists in Cornwall 1975-present day, Halsgrove pp13-15, photo & illus

P Fuller (1988) in B Ford, ed The Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain, Chp 3: 'The Visual Arts'

Hoyle, H (Dec 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall Review of BBC4 documentary 'Art of Cornwall'

Hoyle, H (Oct 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall 'Margaret Mellis and St Ives Modernism'

J LeGrice (2008) The First Eleven: St Ives Artists

Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership

RA (1977) British Painting 1952-1977

RWE (1992) Artists from Cornwall Exh cat

The Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64, Twenty Five Years of Painting, Sculpture & Pottery

Tovey (2009) Creating a Splash;

Whybrow (2013) St Ives: The Story of Porthmeor Studios

York City Art Gallery (1988) The Nicholsons: A study of four people and their designs;