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Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981)

Ragged Robin

Nicholson was born in Oxford into an eminent family, prominent in art and politics. She was encouraged to paint from an early age by her grandfather, George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, who was an accomplished painter and friend of the Pre-Raphaelites. She later attended the Byam Shaw Art School. In 1920 she married the artist Ben Nicholson with whom, over the subsequent 18 years, she would form a mutually influential partnership. They moved to Bankshead, Cumberland, which would become home for the rest of her life. Here she created a garden with wild flowers. The painting of these flowers, their translucent colours, often in the foreground, or on a window ledge with landscape in the far distance, became her central motif and content. Following her separation from Ben (1931/2) she left for Paris, where she spent half of each year (1932-1938). During this time she briefly experimented with abstraction. Her work was exhibited in solo exhibitions primarily in London, Edinburgh, Leicester and Cambridge. She also participated in joint exhibitions with Ben Nicholson in London at the Beaux Arts Gallery (1923) and at the Mayer Gallery (1925) and with Christopher Wood, with whom she became friends, at the Beaux Arts Gallery (1927).

Oil on canvas
Signed and inscribed with the artist's address verso on stretcher
24 x 24 ins (61 x 61 cms)

Gifted by Dorothy Elmhirst to The Dartington Hall Trust, 25th March 1965

10th Exhibition The Seven and Five Society, Leicester Galleries, London, January 1931, no.43
Dartington Hall, High Cross House, 2001 - 2010

Winifred Nicholson drew upon the theme of flowers throughout her career, having become entranced by the subject in the early 1920s while living with her husband, Ben Nicholson, in Switzerland. Winifred particularly focused on the subject matter of flowers during her time spent at Villa Capricco in Lugano and in the rural countryside of Cumberland, and 'Ragged Robin' is a quintessential example of this type. These paintings mark a distinctive period in Winifred's career prior to her divorce and to her time spent in Paris, where the focus of her work becomes briefly more abstracted.

Dorothy Elmhirst was the daughter of William Whitney. She moved to England in 1925 following her marriage to Leonard Elmhirst. Together they founded the Dartington Hall Trust, whose charitable objectives were focussed on rural regeneration, eduction and creative endeavour.

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