Winifred Nicholson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Winifred Nicholson
A landscape, mostly yellow, a white sky above; in the foreground a white railing and a white-covered table with a vase of yellow flowers
Winifred Nicholson, From Bedroom Window, Bankshead, date unknown, private collection.
Born Winifred Roberts
21 December 1893
Oxford, England
Died 5 March 1981
Carlisle, England
Nationality English
Spouse(s) Ben Nicholson
Website Winifred Nicholson

Winifred Nicholson[note 1] (21 December 1893 – 5 March 1981) was an English painter, a colourist who developed a personalized impressionistic style that concentrated on domestic subjects and landscapes. In her work, the two motifs are often combined in a view out of a window, featuring flowers in a vase or a jug.


Nicholson was born in Oxford as Winifred Roberts. Her parents were the Liberal Party politician Charles Roberts and Lady Cecilia, daughter of the politician George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, and the activist Rosalind Howard. Her interest in painting started early in life. Lord Carlisle was an accomplished painter as well as a friend and patron of many distinguished artists, including the Pre-Raphaelites and members of the Etruscan school. Nicholson began painting with Howard around age 11. She attended the Byam Shaw School of Art.[1] An artist friend from Byam Shaw was Edith Jenkinson (Eejay Hooper), much of whose work was destroyed in bombing during World War II. The poet and literary critic Kathleen Raine was another friend later in her career.

Costa Brava, 1953, Government Art Collection.

Nicholson married the artist Ben Nicholson in 1920 and together they had three children, Jake (b. 1927), Kate (b. 1929), who went on to become an artist in her own right, and Andrew (b. 1931). In the 1920s Winifred became a Christian Scientist, an allegiance that lasted for the rest of her life. Although it is sometimes said incorrectly that with Ben, Winifred formed part of the artist colony at St Ives, Cornwall, she was never permanently living there. Although she painted less in the abstract style than in the representational, she did experiment with her own form of abstraction in the 1930s. Influences between her and Ben were mutual, Ben often admitting he learnt much about colour from his first wife. After they separated, she lived half of each year during the 1930s in Paris. After her divorce from Ben Nicholson in 1938, she spent most of the rest of her long life in Cumberland, at Boothby where her father lived, and at Bankshead, both near Lanercost.

She died in Cumbria on 5 March 1981.[1]


She painted prolifically throughout her life, largely at home but also on trips to Greece and Scotland, among other places. Many of her works are still in private collections, but a number are in the Kettle's Yard art gallery, Cambridge, and several key works belong to Tate. One painting is believed to have hung at 10 Downing Street. She had a lifelong fascination for rainbow and spectrum colours and in the 1970s she made particularly strong, innovative use of such colours in many of her paintings. She left some written accounts of her thoughts on colour.

Nicholson supported the Taiwanese artist Li Yuan-chia, who had previously worked in Milan and London. He ran the "LYC Museum", close to Bankshead. Significant exhibitions of her works have taken place at the Tate Gallery (1987), at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, Cumbria, at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge and at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh. Her auction record of £145,000 was set at Bonham's auction house in London in March 2011 for her 1952 oil on canvas Sea Treasures.[2]


  1. ^ Following her separation from her husband she sometimes used the name "Winifred Dacre". "Dacre" is an old Howard family name; see Lord Carlisle.


  1. ^ a b Judith Collins (rev.). Nicholson , (Rosa) Winifred (1893–1981). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, May 2009. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37810. Accessed April 2013.
  2. ^ Winifred Nicholson (British, 1893-1981) Sea Treasures 60 x 76 cm. (23 1/2 x 30 in.). Bonhams sale 18698, "20th Century British Art", 9 March 2011, New Bond Street, London; Lot 16A.

Further reading[edit]

  • Judith Collins (1987). Winifred Nicholson - Tate Retrospective Catalogue. The Tate Gallery, London.
  • Andrew Nicholson (ed.) (1987). Unknown Colour: Painting, Letters, Writings by Winifred Nicholson. London: Faber. ISBN 0571149502
  • Alice Strang (1999). Winifred Nicholson in Scotland (exhibition catalogue). Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, ISBN 1903278406.
  • Jon Blackwood (2001). Winifred Nicholson (exhibition catalogue). Cambridge: Kettle's Yard. ISBN 090707488X.
  • [s.n.] (2005) Winifred Nicholson 1893–1981: A Cumbrian Perspective (exhibition catalogue). Cockermouth: Castlegate House Gallery.
  • Christopher Andreae (2009). Winifred Nicholson. Farnham: Lund Humphries. ISBN 9780853319726.
  • [s.n.] (2012). Winifred Nicholson, Music of Colour (exhibition catalogue). Cambridge: Kettle's Yard. ISBN 978 1 904561 41 5

External links[edit]