Ben Nicholson

/Works and biography

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February 1956 (menhir), 1956
Oil (and ink?) on board, 99.4 x 30 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 46
Ben Nicholson, by SIAE 2008


In the early thirties Ben Nicholson began carving reliefs. By 1934 they were composed of circular and rectilinear elements that he painted white, and when he focused again on the form in the mid-1950s, they became subtly varied in coloration and texture. The present example is particularly severe, the absence of curved or diagonal lines recalling the work of Piet Mondrian, whom Nicholson knew and admired. The muted, chalky color evokes early Italian Renaissance frescoes and shards of classical pottery. The parenthetical menhir in the title refers to the simple prehistoric stone slabs and the association is reinforced by the vertical format and the hewn monochromatic surface of the board. The balance of shape, proportion, and placement, apparently so simple, is achieved adroitly to produce a work of austere harmony.

credits: Hangar Design Group