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Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
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Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)

Point of Descent

Ben Nicholson, O.M. (1894-1982)
Point of Descent
signed, inscribed and dated 'Ben Nicholson/May 1954/(Point of Descent)/May 54/BN' (on backboard)
oil, gouache and pencil
8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5 cm.) overall
Marcus Brumwell, to whom given by the artist, and by descent.
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Lot Essay

The present composition was a gift from the artist to his friend Marcus Brumwell, the Cornish collector who had been a patron as far back as 1927. It was also Brumwell that Nicholson and Christopher Wood had been visiting in 1928 when, on a trip to St Ives, they met and discovered the work of the fisherman painter, Alfred Wallis.

It is not known when Point of Descent changed hands, but this period was a busy one for Nicholson. In May, the same month as the execution date of the present work, Nicholson held a one-man show at Galerie Apollo, Brussels; which was subsequently awarded the Belgian Critics Award for the best show of the year. In June 1954, he attended the opening of his retrospective at the Venice Biennale and received the Ulisse award. The success of this exhibition lead to bookings for the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels and the Kunsthaus, Zurich.

In the early 1950s Patrick Heron discussed Nicholson's compositions from this period, 'I believe that Ben Nicholson likes to insist upon a connection between the landscape in which he lives (St Ives, Cornwall) and his painting. The connection is there, and is a strong one; but it is oblique ... paintings are impregnated with the equalities of light, texture and colour which convey one at once to St Ives. The over-clean 'washed-ness' of the cool colours and the smooth neat textures are qualities very precisely related to that rain-washed Atlantic-blown town. And the multiplicity of pale greys, off-whites, pale blues, purples and yellows all have a valid basis in the white ocean-reflected light which almost bleaches things in its diffuse radiance' (see P. Heron, The New Statesman and Nation, 17 May 1952, Review of Ben Nicholson: Exhibition of Paintings, Lefevre Gallery, London).


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