Ben Nicholson was one of the most radical British artists of the twentieth century and the leader of the modern movement in Britain between the wars.
He was born into a firmly established artistic family: his father was Sir William Nicholson, one of the English Impressionists; his mother was also a painter, and the sister of the acclaimed painter James Pryde. His first wife was the painter Winifred Nicholson, whilst his second wife was the sculptor Barbara Hepworth.
This small abstract work in pen, oil and wash on white wove paper dates from the end of Nicholson’s career. Complex forms and spaces are defined in what seems almost to be one continuously drawn line, hardly taking his pen off the paper. The limited colour is applied in patches, influenced perhaps by Mondrian, and in quite an abstract way as to guide the eye around the picture. The barely coloured, delicate palette and sparse, almost ethereal draughtsmanship offers a nod to British classicism with the landscape pared down to its bare essence.
The extreme refinement and restraint of his work constitutes his unique contribution to modern British, and international art.
He was awarded numerous prizes and distinctions: in 1952 he won the Carnegie Prize at the International Exhibition in Pittsburgh; in 1956 he won the First Guggenheim International Prize; in 1957 he won the International Painting Prize at the São Paulo Biennale; and in 1958 he won a major prize at the Venice Biennale.