Rosa Winifred Roberts (1893-1981) was born in Oxford and trained at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. She met Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) in 1920 and they married later that year; thereafter she was primarily known as Winifred Nicholson. Ben was born in Denham, Buckinghamshire to the painters William Nicholson (1872-1949) and Mabel Pryde Nicholson (1871-1918) and briefly attended the Slade School of Fine Art.
Winifred and Ben spent much of the 1920s between Lugano, London and Cumberland. In 1923 they purchased Bankshead, a Cumbrian farmhouse which was to remain Winifred’s base for the rest of her life. Its surroundings can be seen in Ben’s drawing View from Bankshead Looking East (Lot 90). They worked and exhibited together, including with the Seven and Five Society (later known as the 7 & 5 Society) and at the Beaux Arts and Lefevre Galleries. The couple’s first son, Jake, was born in 1927, followed by Kate in 1929 and Andrew in 1931. Ben and Winifred separated some months afterwards and despite a divorce of 1938, corresponded regularly until her death in 1981.
Kate Nicholson (1929-2019) studied at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, Cumbria College of Art and Design and Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court. Moreover, the lifelong example and guidance of her parents was critical to her development as an artist. For instance, early in her career Kate stayed with Ben in St Ives in 1955, before moving into her own house and studio nearby. She also undertook multiple painting trips with Winifred to countries including Greece, Tunisia and Morocco. The inspiration which her mother found in the colour, light, landscape and history of Greece is clear in Winifred’s drawings from their trips offered here. Furthermore, Kate had two solo exhibitions at LYC Museum and Art Gallery in Brampton, Cumbria, which was established in 1971 by Winifred with the artist Li Yuan Chia. Kate’s painting hunting grave stone (Lot 93) was included in that of 1981, the year after it was made.
Jake Nicholson (1927-2003) trained at the Architectural Association in London and alongside Kate at Corsham. Having exhibited with groups including the Carlisle Art Society, Penwith Society of Arts and London Group, he was appointed to design roles at Edinburgh Weavers and the P&O shipping company. They were followed by the establishment of his own company, Foursquare Designs, with a focus on curtain fabrics. Later in life Jake became a Liberal Democrat councillor and resumed painting and exhibiting in earnest.
The works in this collection speak of Jake’s relationships with his parents and sister. Jake and Kate on the Beach (Lot 82) is a tender portrait by Winifred of her two oldest children. They are seen happily playing in the sand, grains of which Winifred applied to the work’s surface. The love of nature which Jake shared with his mother is represented by her sensitive painting Two Birds (Lot 85) and the drawing Rainbow over the Sea (lLot 87). Rainbows were a particular source of fascination for Winifred, as a demonstration of the division of light into the colour spectrum which informed much of her practice.
Of particular importance, personally and art historically, is Oh Boy! (Lot 91), which Ben made for Jake in about 1933 during a key period in his career. On an intimate scale perfect for a young child, it reveals their common sense of humour, as well as many of the developments which were to lead to the creation of Ben’s groundbreaking reliefs of the period. The latest work in the collection by Ben, 4 Forms (Lot 89) dates from the year before his death.
Jake took a keen interest in the work of his mother, father and sister throughout his life. He supported their exhibitions and championed their achievements in lectures, articles and interviews. Above all, he found their work a joy to live with.
Lyon & Turnbull are delighted to offer several auctions a year across the UK featuring to Modern British painting, sculpture, prints and drawings - including MODERN MADE in London. These Modern British art auctions feature works from the likes of Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group to Terry Frost and the St Ives School, we also handle selected works by all of 20th century Europe’s major figures and movements.
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