Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949)
Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949)


Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949)
signed 'Nicholson.' (lower right), signed with initials and inscribed 'Sunflowers/WN' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
16 x 12½ in. (40.8 x 31.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1933.
Barbizon House, London.
William Witherle Lawrence, by 1948.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 13 July 1964, lot 372, as 'Yellow Sunflowers'.
with Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, November 1965, where acquired by the previous owner, and by descent.
R. Nichols, William Nicholson, Penguin Modern Painters series, Harmondsworth, 1948, pl. 23.
L. Browse, William Nicholson, London, 1956, p. 95, no. 389, dated circa 1928, as oil on canvas.
P. Reed, William Nicholson catalogue raisonné of the oil paintings, London and New Haven, 2011, p. 538, no. 700, illustrated, as 'Yellow Sunflowers'.
London, C.E.M.A. Exhibition, Pall Mall and Scottish Investment Co. Ltd., Flower Paintings, early 1940s, no. 15, catalogue not traced.
London, Roland, Browse and Delbanco, William Nicholson 1872-1949: Centenary Exhibition, April - May 1972, no. 18.

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Lot Essay

This is Nicholson's only recorded painting of sunflowers. Executed in lively impasto and dry, opaque colour over a white ground, the flowers and leaves are modelled with relish and the paint has been generously applied. Nicholson's palette, which includes a dusty rose pink recalling Fruit and Vegetable Still life (1933: National Gallery of Canada) and Lady Spencer's portrait (1933: Althorp Collection), suggests the influence of his first visit to Spain earlier that year. The jug appears to be of Spanish pottery, and may have been purchased during his holiday in Seville as a present for his daughter Nancy. It is either the same, or very similar to one owned by Nancy Nicholson, and the circle motif appears in her fabric entitled Jug of circa 1948 (illustrated in Sophie Bowness and Timothy Nicholson 'The Textile Designs of Nancy Nicholson', Apollo, October 2001, fig. 27, p. 23).

The artist was staying with Nancy at her home, Poulk, Sutton Veny, in Wiltshire in the autumn of 1933 when he wrote to his friend and former student Diana Low that he was painting Sunflowers (16 October 1933; private collection). This would seem to suggest a date of 1933 for the work, rather than the late 1920s.

We are very grateful to Patricia Reed for preparing the catalogue entries for lots 15 and 17.

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