In March 1958, Nicholson moved to Ticino, Switzerland with Felicitas Vogler whom he had married in July the previous year: he was to live there until 1972. February 1960 saw work begin on his new house, which was to become known as Casa alla Rocca, high above Lake Maggiore above the lakeside village of Brissago, with staggering views to snow-capped mountains beyond. In April 1961, they moved in, and year later Nicholson painted Sept 62 (Lirkion).
In a letter to his first wife, Winifred, Nicholson expresses his delight at the setting, ‘We have bought a piece of land not far from here and are working on plans of a house and studio – rather exciting but also quite a problem as the site is a steep one but in a heavenly position – I wonder if I shall do any work once I get there – it would be easy to stay all day and every day and look at the changing landscape. The lake here is much wider and more open than the Lugano lake. The dark brown mountain sides are a wonderful colour and the snow caps are seen against a more or less miraculous winter blue’ (B. Nicholson, quoted in N. Lynton, Ben Nicholson, London, 1993, p. 311).
Jeremy Lewison comments ‘Vogler, a photographer, and Nicholson shared an interest in detail and textures, in ancient buildings and monuments and in the encounter of classical forms in everyday surroundings’ (J. Lewison, Ben Nicholson, London, 1991, pp. 21-22). Lewison also described, 'Nicholson’s use of board and wood in the sixties [from the Ticino period onwards] exemplified this attitude more convincingly than the paintings of the fifties which, because of their figurative nature, remain paintings. The object-nature of the reliefs and the manner in which he worked the surfaces ensure that colour does not appear to be applied but is the very essence of the work. Nicholson weathered the surfaces as the weather itself wears away earth and stone' (J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1993, p. 91).
Peter Khoroche discusses Nicholson’s works of this period, ‘Many of Nicholson’s late reliefs have place-names in their titles […] [Nicholson made five trips to Greece and the Aegean between 1959 and 1973]. He added these name-tags only after completing each work and the connection between the two, whether close or distant, was always highly personal, even at times frivolous. The reliefs are rarely straightforward evocations of place: they are not so much landscapes as mindscapes. Above all, they are objects whose colour, form and texture are to be appreciated for themselves and for what they suggest to each individual viewer. They are a means of conveying an experience of and awareness, not the representation of something […] for Nicholson it was a question of finding and recognising the right mood before he could start on a drawing, or of going deeper and deeper into his subconscious as he scraped and painted and rubbed and scoured the bone-hard hardboards of his late reliefs, so we who contemplate the finished work must do so with sympathetic sensitivity, opening up our own memory-store to meet it halfway’ (P. Khoroche, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson ‘chasing out something alive’ drawings and painted reliefs 1950-75, Cambridge, Kettle’s Yard, 2002, p. 38).