1941 (relief)

1941 (relief)


Ben Nicholson

(British, 1894-1978)

Oil on wood

Framed: 46.7 x 65.4 x 5.1 cm (18 3/8 x 25 3/4 x 2 in.)

Contemporary Collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art 1965.449


One of the pioneers of abstract art in Great Britain, Nicholson merged Cubist principles of design and construction with suggestive shapes inspired by Surrealism. A member of the avant-garde group Unit One during the early 1930s, he married sculptor Barbara Hepworth and settled at St. Ives in Cornwall, where his studio became a gathering place for artists from London. This construction of painted wood displays the compositional harmony, purity of form, and complex interplay of solids and voids, characteristic of his "white reliefs" of the Cornwall period. With its disciplined approach to compositional arrangement, 1941 demonstrates the influence of Piet Mondrian, who Nicholson met in Paris. The serene shapes suggest that Nicholson discovered a refuge in art at a time when Britain was struggling to survive the onslaught of the Nazi blitz.

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