First exhibited in 1937, the double date indicates that this painting is based on a canvas from 1934 that Nicholson rubbed down and painted over in 1936. Its complex arrangement of abstract elements sometimes suggests recognisable items – a mug, a glass and a cup can be identified – while other shapes remain enigmatic.
1934-6 (Painting - still life), 1934–6
One of the leading figures in British twentieth century modernism, Ben Nicholson was a pioneer of abstract art and a key figure of the St Ives School. Born in 1894, he married Winifred Nicholson in 1920 and travelled widely throughout Europe. His work was influenced by pivotal movements in European art such as post-impressionism, cubism and constructivism, though he forged his own distinctly personal response to these genres. By the 1930s his work was almost entirely abstract, and in 1933 he created his first abstract reliefs – three dimensional painted compositions, possibly influenced by his second marriage to the sculptor Barbara Hepworth.