The present work is an example of carved relief, the distinctive method for which Nicholson is perhaps best remembered. His first reliefs date from the 1930s--despite their ultimate recognition, these sculptural paintings weren't commercially successful at the time. Patrick Heron believed that the success Nicholson had attained by the 1950s gave him the financial security necessary to return to his favored reliefs. His move, in March 1958, with his wife Felicitas Vogler, to Brissago, Switzerland, where their house overlooked Lago Maggiore, afforded further inspiration. The panoramic vistas Nicholson enjoyed influenced the monumental horizontal format of his reliefs from this period.
The artist's latter carved reliefs--Nicholson moved back to England in 1971, the year after Sienese Landscape was painted--are further discussed by Peter Khoroche: "Many of Nicholson's late reliefs have place-names in their titles: Racciano, Kos, Obidos, Malta, Carnac, Aegina, Amboise... 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 recognizing 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" (op. cit., exh. cat., 2002, p. 38).
(fig. 1) The artist in his studio at Brissago, 1963.