BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)

1968 (Delos 2)

Details
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M. (1894-1982)
1968 (Delos 2)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Ben Nicholson/67/(Delos 2)' (on the reverse)
oil on carved board, relief
80 1/4 x 46 3/4 in. (203.8 x 118.7 cm.)
Painted in 1967-68.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's parents in 1968-69, and by descent.
Literature
J. Russell (intro.), Ben Nicholson: drawings, paintings and reliefs 1911-1968, London, 1969, pp. 14-15, 305, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1969, pp. 60, 71, no. 123, illustrated.
N. Lynton, Ben Nicholson, London, 1993, pp. 380, 383, pl. 367.
J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1993, pp. 199, 235, no. 127, illustrated.
N. Lynton, Ben Nicholson, London, 1998, p. 205, illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Tate Gallery, Ben Nicholson, June - July 1969, no. 123.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

Well represented in the literature on the artist, yet only seen in public once, at the Tate Gallery, London, over fifty years ago, 1968 (Delos 2) is an important rediscovery. It is a key work which has remained in the ownership of the same family since it was purchased directly from the artist in the late 1960s. Norbert Lynton enthused, ‘One of the most remarkable, as well as largest, of the reliefs of the late 1960s is 1968 (Delos 2). This is a vertical composition, strongly built and at the same time soft and mobile. Whitened forms occupy the lower two-thirds, dark forms and an area of blue, the top third. This disposition of tone makes for lightness and a sense of rising forms, and this is enhanced by the curved edge at the bottom of the most prominent of the relief elements, a broad L-shape that seems to rock slightly as though detaching itself from its base’ (N. Lynton, Ben Nicholson, London, 1993, pp. 380-381).

The vertical format of 1968 (Delos 2) may recall the archaic temples and sites on the small sacred island of Delos that Nicholson visited with his third wife, the photographer Felicitas Vogler in May 1967 as part of cruise around Greek islands. The trip also included visiting Samos, Patmos, Skyros, Mykonos and the Turkish coast in the company of friends including Mr and Mrs Victor Pasmore as well as the original owners of 1968 (Delos 2). According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of both Apollo and Artemis and being at the epicentre of the Cyclades archipelago, it is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece.

In the 1993 Tate Gallery exhibition catalogue, Jeremy Lewison explains, ‘Visits to Greece also left their mark on Nicholson, not only in the return to white, off-white or silver reliefs, in which the brilliant light on the white houses finds its equivalent, but also in the monuments that he saw, with their massive blocks of stone interlocked by basic joints and their considerable presence as objects. The manner in which the different planes in a Nicholson relief are locked together recalls both megalithic and pre-classical architecture. In his appreciation of these ancient cultures he was joined by [Felicitas] Vogler; while Nicholson drew she took photographs. On his return … from such trips he would have her photographs not only as reminders but as references to what he had seen’ (J. Lewison, exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson, London, Tate Gallery, 1993, pp. 91-92). Lewison continues, ‘When the present owners first viewed the relief [1968 (Delos 2)] in the artist’s studio it had a horizontal format. However, Nicholson ultimately determined that it would be vertically orientated. The relief also originally had a red area where it is now brown towards the top. The pronounced chisel marks in certain areas indicate a new approach to surface texture in the late reliefs and are reminiscent of some of Hepworth’s sculptures of the sixties such as Epidauros, 1960 (Tate, London). The present owners suggest that the forms of the relief relate closely to photographs of stones at Delos, which Vogler took on their visit in 1967’ (ibid., p. 235).

In 1967 Geoffrey Grigson also wrote about works from this period: 'New. Severe. Curved forms have been creeping into the reliefs of 1967, long and narrow, rather as if Nicholson had taken straight sides by the two ends and bent them, against their spring, either downwards or upwards: remove the pressure and the forms might jump back to straightness. Lengthways the shapes tend against each other, outwards, inwards, are then checked and held. Browns and blues are held apart by grey, the brown patches having a particular quality and intensity of revelation, coming forward, and checked - tension again - by the greys which spread but stay where they are put, and the blues which recede and pull back. A new severity (and serenity), complex in contrivance, simple in effect' (G. Grigson quoted in exhibition catalogue, Ben Nicholson: Twelve New Works, London, Marlborough Fine Art, 1967).

The artist's carved reliefs of this period are also further discussed by Peter Khoroche: 'Many of Nicholson's late reliefs have place-names in their titles … sometimes the allusion is obvious … but more often it is not. 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 a 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 or an awareness, not the representation of something. Obviously this requires a special sort of aesthetic contemplation in the spectator who, if properly attuned, will enter into Nicholson's idea and so share with him a highly-charged piece living reality. Just as 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 hardboard 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, Kettles Yard, 2002, p. 38).

We are very grateful to Rachel Smith and Lee Beard for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.
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