Ben Nicholson Research point

Ben Nicholson’s drawings.  I have not seen still life drawings like Ben Nicholson’s previously.  They do not appear the way I imagine a still life would.

DACS; (c) DACS - FULL CONSULT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Here is one of his drawings (please click to enlarge).  It is called Still Life,  I do not know what it is of.  He has simplified the image to lines, shapes and colours.  There is also texture and tone.




1943-45 (St Ives, Cornwall) 1943-5 by Ben Nicholson OM 1894-1982

Here is an image with both still life and landscape:  St Ives, Cornwall. This is a drawing of still life objects, with a landscape or seascape in the background, out of a window.

This is a useful way to put more into a drawing – by making good use of a background.

Ben Nicholson uses hatching to create texture, but his drawings of cups are flat looking.  The image does have a feeling of depth to it – with the ships seeming to be off in the distance.  The cups don’t look three dimensional because they have been drawn with flat areas of tone which don’t describe the curve of their shapes.  The whole drawing has a jaunty, stylised feel to it; the windowsill and curtains seem simplified.  You can see straight through the handles of the teacups.

The buildings between the teacups and the seascape are simplified – drawn as outlines with blocks of painted colour filling them.  This is like silhouette, only I would have expected a silhouette to be dark, not pale blue or pale grey.

In the distance you can also see a house on a hill and some hills beyond; all of these are outlined drawings.  This is a strange drawing.  The more you look, the more you see.  Which is true of all drawings, but this is almost like an optical illusion, because you think you can see what is there, and then one thing is painted or drawn into another.  Everything is interconnected so that what you see is not what you see, at the same time as being exactly what you see.

1922 (bread) 1922 by Ben Nicholson OM 1894-1982


Here is an early still life by Ben Nicholson, from 1922.  This has interesting qualities of line, broad outlines, shadows and highlights.

Oct. 55 (Torre del Grillo, Rome) 1955 by Ben Nicholson OM 1894-1982

Oct. 55 (Torre del Grillo, Rome) 1955 by Ben Nicholson OM 1894-1982

Below is a pencil drawing in which you can see objects through objects and background through objects.  It is very layered and complex.


This way of drawing brings the foreground and the back ground together.

I like the ways Ben Nicholson pushes the idea of still life to a whole new idea.  He makes things which might seem ordinary extraordinary.



1 thought on “Ben Nicholson Research point

  1. Pingback: Project: Drawing fruit and vegetables in colour | Eve's art

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