Winifred Nicholson 1893-1981
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Winifred Nicholson Paintings and Drawings
Oil on board
51 x 56 cm.
Christie’s 17th June 1977
Private collection, purchased from above
Scolar Fine Art, London
Private collection, UK (purchased from the above 2001)
Osborne Samuel, London
Looking towards Bewcastle Fells in Cumberland, Winifred Nicholson’s painting draws no boundary between still life and landscape. Rather, the ridged or striped china seems placed on a stone ledge, its patterning continuing in shadows beneath it and stretching as a ribbon – whether river or drystone wall – into the distance.
Winifred had felt a strong attachment to Cumberland since the 1920s. In 1924 she moved with her husband, Ben Nicholson, to Banks Head, an old farmhouse on the Roman Wall. This is where she would return at the outbreak of war, after her marriage had collapsed and after spending time with her young children in Paris. The theme of a still life with flowers, whether table-top or framed by a window, was the most significant, distinctive and enduring of Nicholson’s career. As she recalled, ‘I have tried to paint many things in many different ways, but my paint brush always gives a tremor of pleasure when I let it paint a flower.’ The flowers in Bewcastle, possibly white nemophila and yellow ranunculus, are painted joyously and without fussiness.
Bewcastle unites the elements of its composition not only through form, but through colour. Yellow flowers and rimmed china link to the ochre landscape, grey drawing the eye from the foreground to the hills and skittering clouds. Nicholson’s friend, the poet Kathleen Raine, paid tribute to her skill in conveying the essence of this landscape, writing,
Mountains she loved, but above all skies; the grey luminosity of the Cumbrian skies she depicted with virtuosity in her handling of the mingling of light with cloud and mist.
 Winifred Nicholson, ‘The Flower’s Response’, in Andrew Nicholson (ed.), Unknown Colour: Paintings, Letters, Writings by Winifred Nicholson (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), p. 216.
 Kathleen Raine, ‘The Unregarded Happy Texture of Life’ (1984), reproduced in Unknown Colour, p. 199.