The abstract works which Ben Nicholson made in the 1930s led to a growing international reputation and acceptance. In 1933 he was invited by Parisian artists to join the group Abstration-Création, and by 1936 exhibited alongside Mondrian, Kandinsky, Arp, Gabo and Hélion in the Abstract and Concrete exhibition which toured England as well as being included in Cubism and Abstract Art at MoMA, New York. While the concept behind the abstract works Ben Nicholson made in this period is deceptively simple, the process of constant reduction and pairing down by which they were reached and the way that they can be interpreted on many levels is remarkably complex. Unlike many of his later abstract paintings there is no hint of the way in which 1940 (composition) was made; note for example how the hole made by the compass point has been painted over. And in its rhythm, balance and harmony it shares many of the characteristics of the works made at this time. He wrote, “It was interesting that during an exhibition of abstract work which I held in London several people in different professions wrote saying that they felt a common bond between their job and mine; a yacht designer, for instance, wrote that it was a hair’s breadth in design which decided the pace or lack of pace in a yacht and that it seems to be this same hair’s breadth in design which decided the power or lack of power in a relief” (‘Notes on Abstract Art’, Horizon, January 1943).
Dr Bruno Adler (1888-1968), was a German art historian and writer who lectured at the Bauhaus from 1919-1924. When the Nazis seized power, Adler was forced to flee to Prague and in 1936 settled in England.
We are very grateful to Jovan Nicholson for preparing this catalogue entry.