Ben Nicholson

(1894-1982)
British painter and maker of reliefs, and is widely regarded as one of Britain's most distinguished and influential pioneers of abstract art.


Nicholson studied at the Slade School of Art from 1910-11, beginning his career painting landscapes and still lifes. Inspired by a visit to Paris in 1921, where he first saw Cubist paintings, he gradually turned to abstract art. He was instrumental in introducing Continental Modernism into English art during the 1920s, along with the sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. In 1933 he and Hepworth joined the Paris-based Abstraction-Création group, an artists' association that advocated purely abstract art. He also met the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, under whose influence Nicholson's work took on a greatly simplified geometry. Nicholson was married to Barbara Hepworth from 1938-1951, during which time they lived in Cornwall.


Nicholson's work has been exhibited and is held in collections worldwide, including retrospective exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, Italy and Tate, London (1954-5); Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (1961); Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, USA (1964); Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA (1978); and Tate, London (1993-4). He received the Order of Merit in 1968.