Nicholson returned to painting still lifes throughout his career. In particular, he was fascinated by table top scenes – a legacy of his interest in cubism, whose followers often used still life compositions to suggest distinctive, three dimensional form. Here, Nicholson uses warm landscape colours and a smooth fresco-like surface to evoke the Val d’Orcia, a place not far from Siena, Italy.
August 1956 (Val d'Orcia), 1956
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.