Ben Nicholson - Still Life (Violin) - 1932 - 30 x 24 in - oil and gesso on board
This painting is an excellent example on how artists allow recent influences to show in their development. Nicholson engaged with Cubism as a means to refine and personalize his awareness of this major development in contemporary painting, and used it to provide a solid foundation for his journey towards abstraction. Here, like Picasso and Braque, he uses the picture plane while simultaneously shifting our view to provide the sense of space.
The lines of the grid are both in front and behind the violin, conveying the feeling of space. I love the repeating rhythm of a series of vertical rectangles and how their dance gently contains my perusal. Can you feel how the white one is nearer and the others recede? You are meant to sense this dance rather than see the harmony they provide in the composition. The two verticals patterned with dots is open to interpretation ( I think of the act of playing the instrument and the rhythmic lines at the upper left is the sound of the music.)
The wonderful “shifting of space” in the body of the violin, the positioning of the F-holes and showing us the side view of the neck and scroll not only shows Nicholson’s understanding of cubism, it also shows us his restraint and refinement of this great consideration in twentieth century painting.
Two Boxes – 2012 – 23 x 33 cm – mixed water soluble media
This recent painting is an excellent example of how I permit influences to show in my paintings. My first consideration in this composition is the feeling of the space between the orange chair and the blue boxes and the use of spatial planes (Paul Cezanne). I also refined the composition through reduction (Ben Nicholson), and determined eye movement with Paul Klee’s approach to guiding the viewer’s perusal. I’m not thinking of these masters when working on the painting, but recognize their influences afterwards.
My own sensibilities are prominent, which have developed over time through studying many wonderful artists. Their work and knowledge has provided me with a strong foundation. The key is appreciating the process of the masters.
The spatial planes are very important and fascinating, as they can be quite elusive when developing the sense of space. They usually require a considerable amount of time to feel or refine, (which suits my temperament), ensuring continuity in my work.
Thank you Cezanne for this beautifully open consideration!
Ben Nicholson - Still Life with Jugs and Mugs -1929 - 38 x 56 cm - oil and pencil on canvas
This, what may seam to be a simple painting is really very sophisticated, and Nicholson was successfully developing his approach to the wonderful spatial considerations being refined in the twentieth century.
He has subtly provided us a sense of movement (our movement) by altering our position in space when we view the mugs from above and from a level position simultaneously. You are meant to sense it more than to see it, and the sophistication of his elegant simplicity is wonderful.
I love how he also provides us with the sense of space by rendering the mug handles in front of the mugs. This has stayed with me for years and I hope you can you feel and appreciate it. The handles also provide a lovely rhythm, integrating the two mugs with the jug at the right. Nicholson also provided other beautiful rhythms with the vertical bands on lower mug and the horizontal bands of colour on the pictures and the mug in the centre, which obviously brings us to the focus with strong use of colour. I feel the strong white shape balances with the strong combination of the green and reds and their combined power is on the verge of dominating. This is a great example of colour ratio, or in other words not having the colour compete or dominate the wonderful subtle considerations in the rest of the composition.
It is a joy to engage with Nicholson’s wonderful journey towards becoming a true master.
Ben Nicholson - Still Life with Jug, Mugs, Cup and Goblet - 1925 - 60 x 60 cm - oil and pencil on canvas
Ben Nicholson is a superb example of a painter who explored the great considerations of conveying depth and space by raising the subject matter to the picture plane. His dedication to this major shift in art is very impressive.
This early still life shows us his awareness of the importance of limiting perspective, conveying space through placement, as well as shifting the viewers sense of place. You can see this shift in the mug at the right. We are simultaneously level with the mug and above the others. This provides the feeling of space or movement!
Nicholson was also exploring another shift when he flattened the decoration on what we read as the curved surfaces of the mugs. This subtle dynamic is very sophisticated and is not meant to be obvious. Great artists are very aware of how we interpret subconsciously.
I should also point out some lovely integration. The shape entering the painting at the bottom taking us to the white cup and then the left of the cup integrates with the edge of the mug above. Also the top of the mug connects to the handle of the pitcher. Can you feel the integrations?
Nicholson was a great twentieth century master.