1946 (still life - Alice through the looking glass)
10 Apr 1894 - 06 Feb 1982
The first thing the viewer notices about this painting is its graphic quality. With its dependence on pencil marks and pallid colours, it hardly seems painted at all. The artist organised his surface into clearly defined, overlapping shapes with little regard to depth or dimensional interplay. The illusionism which was once the mainstay of the oil-on-canvas technique has given way to its opposite, a kind of insubstantiality. Discoveries made by Picasso and Braque before 1914 inform this belated British example of cubism . Ben Nicholson painted his first abstract in 1924 and carved his first purist relief a decade later, though representational motifs occur throughout his career. His father was the Edwardian artist and illustrator, Sir William Nicholson, some of whose pictorial discretion he inherited. Painted near the famed enclave of artists at St Ives, Cornwall, this composition is as devoid of painterly excess and vulgar display as it is full of nuance.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
Still life (Alice through the looking glass)
Still Life no. 6
oil and pencil on canvas
68.6 x 76.2 cm stretcher; 91.1 x 99.6 x 6.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Not signed. Dated verso, "...1946".
Not on display
© Ben Nicholson/DACS. Licensed by Viscopy, Australia
Shown in 8 exhibitions
Modern British Paintings, British Institute, Athens, Athens, Oct 1947–Nov 1947
Eleven British Artists, Australia 1949:
- Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane 1949–1949
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart 1949–1949
- Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Launceston 1949–1949
- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth 1949–1949
- National Gallery of Victoria [Swanston Street], Melbourne 1949–1949
- National Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 1949–1949
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 23 Jul 1949–21 Aug 1949
Purchases and Acquisitions for 1949, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Dec 1949–17 Feb 1950
18 British Paintings from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, Jun 1965–Jul 1965
Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart (2002), S.H. Ervin Gallery, The Rocks, 12 Jan 2002–24 Feb 2002
Modern Britain 1900-1960, NGV: International, Melbourne, 15 Nov 2007–24 Feb 2008
Matisse and the moderns, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Apr 2015–25 Oct 2015
(Ben Nicholson), Alex Reid & Lefevre, Ltd., London, 1946?–1946?
Alex Reid & Lefevre, Ltd., 1946, London/England
The British Council, 1949, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from the British Council 1949. Purchased from the exhibition 'Eleven British Artists' Australian State Galleries 1949.
Referenced in 13 publications
René Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 56.
Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 164 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Paintings and Sculpture', pg. 17-77, Sydney, 1999, 63 (colour illus.).
Ben Nicholson, Ben Nicholson, London, 1955, (illus.). Vol. 1, plate no. 173
Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart, Favourites: Margaret Olley and Jeffrey Smart selections, Sydney, 2002. No catalogue numbers; titled 'Still life'; Jeffrey Smart selection.
Eleven British artists, London, 1949, (illus.). cat.no. 26, listed as 'Still Life (No. 6)'
Modern British Paintings, London, 1947. cat.no. 37
(Ben Nicholson), London, 1946. cat.no. 70, listed as 'Still Life (6)'
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 56 (colour illus.).
Anne Kirker and Peter Tomory, British painting 1800–1990 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1997, 139. cat.no. 1596
Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 138 (illus.).
Ted Gott, Unknown and Unknown, Modern Britain 1900-1960, Melbourne, 2007, 206 (colour illus.).
Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs de tous les temps et de tous les pays par un groupe d'écrivans spécialistes français et étrangers, Paris, 1953, 464 (illus.).