Horses Head 2. 2014. Acrylic on paper 25 x 32 cm
We are delighted to hold stock of Tim Nicholson’s paintings which are available to view in the gallery by appointment. Some of the paintings below are not here but can be retrieved from the artist for viewing. Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org with any enquiries.
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Tim Nicholson’s personal sense of colour and liveliness of observation yield images of delight, imbued with the Nicholson family aesthetic.
RICHARD MORPHET CURATOR AT THE TATE GALLERY 1966 – 98; and author of a number of books about the Nicholson family.
Born in 1939 to the hugely influential Nicholson family, Tim lays no claim to special attention from his family. Yet his work shines with the bold, fresh and playful ability to reduce his subjects to an essential simplicity which is so distinctive of the Nicholson’s.
In this exhibition we gather pictures from throughout his life in a major selling exhibition. The exhibition includes around thirty works, from the very large to the very small, the majority of which have never before been shown.
Tim lives and paints near Cranborne in Dorset. He was brought up there by his mother, EQ Nicholson, a talented fabric designer and artist. During the war the artist John Craxton who was 17 in 1939 came to live with them. He and EQ painted everything that was around them creating a strong sense of place which continues to be an important element of Tim’s work. John Craxton’s work and a number of illustrated letters to Tim’s mother EQ are currently on display at Dorset County Museum. Tim’s father Kit Nicholson was away in the war from when Tim was born. He returned to work as a modernist architect in London, coming home to his family for weekends. He died in a gliding accident in 1948 when Tim was only 9. Kit’s brother, Ben Nicholson was a good friend to EQ but not especially close to his nephew. The painter William Nicholson was Tim’s grandfather but sadly he suffered from senility in his old age and never really knew Tim. Yet these important figures, along with Winifed Nicholson and Christopher Wood, consciously and unconsciously had a lasting influence on Tim which is clearly evident in his paintings.
Tim went to Bryanston on an art scholarship. There he spent all his time in the artroom with the children of a number of other well-known artists who happened to be there at the same time. They were allowed a free hand and spurred each other on, painting, drawing and experimenting. After a false start studying Zoology and Biology at Trinity College Dublin, Tim went to the Architectural Association. Not one to follow the herd, Tim found he ‘had far less grand taste. One likes things like cigarette cards.’ Nevertheless he practised as an architect until 1980 when a cycling accident left him very weak. He amused himself by drawing and by the time he was better he had decided he needed to be an artist. Solo shows in London in1985 at the Charlotte Lampard Gallery and in 1990 at the Michael Parkin Gallery were followed by group shows in London and Dorset.
In 2009 Tim married Catherine Row and entered one of the happiest periods of his life. Catherine has encouraged him to paint and to show his work. He treats painting as an extension of playing. ‘I like making up rules and seeing if they work, then adjusting the rules, putting colours next to each other.’ Inspired by patterns, children’s books, cards, pictures of birds and animals and painted ceramics, he paints the objects and landscape that surround him in bold, witty and youthful colour.
‘The local colour of an object does not belong to the object. The colour that seems to sit on it is subjective, fleeting, effervescent, and is as illusive as magic.’ (Winifred Nicholson 1978 p.51)
Winifred Nicholson, aunt to Tim Nicholson, wrote these words to describe how different forms of light, whether sunlight, moonlight or electric light, change the colour of an object – its radiance, its ambiance.
Often the objects, creatures and landscapes in Tim Nicholson’s paintings bask in the glorious light of a bright summer’s day; a day when dappled shadows are cast: soft, intricate lace shadows; striped, stippled, spotted. Less frequently the light is subdued and there are ice-grey gentle musk-dawn colours.
If colour is one central feature of Tim Nicholson’s paintings, another is a Klee-like concern with organisation and precision. Like his father the Modernist architect Christopher Nicholson, and his uncle Ben Nicholson, Tim has a special love of mathematics, systems, logic and method. This directly informs and shapes his painting, underpinning and structuring his work. Sometimes diagrams and notes in pencil remain on the side of a painting, becoming part of the work itself.
Over the years, and in myriad ways, Nicholson has returned to favoured subjects. Three of these are birds, horses, and the landscape of Cranborne Chase. If he sets his solitary horses on the vast chalk downs of the Chase, the scale of the land turns them into diminutive toys. Sometimes, though, his horses are the sole subject, and garnished in bright array they become decorative creatures; lineal descendants of the poster images which his grandfather, Sir William Nicholson, produced in the 1890s when he teamed up with his brother-in law-James Pryde under the pseudonym of the Beggarstaff Brothers.
Whatever the subject matter, a striking feature of Tim Nicholson’s work is the way he eliminates unnecessary detail so that ‘only the necessary speaks’ (Hans Hoffman). It takes boldness and skill to reduce a subject to fundamental shapes and planes, to simplify space and colour, and to minimise the complexity of the subject matter whether it be a jug, a landscape, bird or animal. Yet Nicholson succeeds brilliantly in this.
Nicholson was an architect at a time when Mies van der Rohe’s dictum of ‘less is more’ was prevalent. Less is certainly more in Nicholson’s paintings, and whatever the subject his paintings offer an arresting and beautiful form of visual magic. Alive with wit, joy, humour and honesty, they brim with life. Such a powerful evocation of emotional response is the mark of a truly fine painter, possessed of a distinctive vision and delighting in the affirmation of life.
Vivienne Light FRSA is a writer, curator and publisher with a special interest in the visual arts of South West England. Her books include Re-inventing the Landscape and Circles and Tangents: Art in the shadow of Cranborne Chase. 25 June 2015.