Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson was a key figure involved in several of the most important artistic groups and movements within British art of the twentieth century. His parents were both artists: William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde. He was married first to artist Winifred Nicholson in 1920 and then to famed sculptor Barbara Hepworth. The two of them worked together and influenced one another into the 1950s. He lived with Hepworth in St Ives, inspired by the landscape and by the other artists working there, until 1958. He was a member of the Seven and Five Society and the Unit One group, which was founded by Paul Nash. Therefore Nicholson was connected, both professionally and personally, to many of the vital figures of twentieth-century British art, becoming one himself. His artistic style, along with Henry Moore’s and Barbara Hepworth’s, is seen as the quintessence of British modernism.


Nicholson is best known for his geometric, abstract paintings, reliefs sculptures, and prints. These primarily utilised simple shapes to convey the people and places around him. He was inspired not only by the British artists that he met but also by Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso, among others.


Nicholson studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. His first solo exhibition was at the Twenty-one Gallery in London in 1924. For his innovative work he received the first Guggenheim International painting prize in 1956. He won the international prize for painting at the São Paolo Bienal in 1957 and he was awarded the Order of Merit in 1968. There have been many retrospective exhibitions of his work, both during his life and posthumously.