Nicholson was born in Pickering, Yorkshire and lived in various towns in the county, moving to Ripon in 1794 before settling in London in 1803. In 1804, he became a founder-member of the Old Watercolour Society. Originally a painter of sporting pictures and portraits, Nicholson later focused on views of country houses and landscapes in watercolours. He toured Scotland and from 1789, and contributed views of Yorkshire and Scotland to the Royal Academy. A similar watercolour of Stone Byer Lin, on the Clyde, is now in the British Museum.