Ben Nicholson OM

  • Nicholsonslide1
    1943-1945 (St Ives, Cornwall)
  • Nicholsonslide2
    1935 (white relief)
  • Nicholsonslide3
    Mural 1951
  • Nicholson4
    1928 (foothills, Cumberland)
  • Nicholson5
    Feb 2-54 1954

Ben Nicholson OM

Porthmeor Studio 5 1949-1958

The painter Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), his wife, sculptor Barbara Hepworth, and their three children, arrived in St Ives in late August 1939. They came at the invitation of the artist and writer Adrian Stokes and his wife, painter Margaret Mellis, to escape from the anticipated bombing in London, and stayed with them at Little Parc Owles in Carbis Bay.

Ben Nicholson was to remain here for 19 years, and Barbara Hepworth for the rest of her life, and they were at the heart of a group of artists based in St Ives who had a decisive effect on the development of modern art in Britain in the second half of the 20th Century.

Ben Nicholson’s geometric paintings and reliefs are some of the most influential abstract works in British art. He had been painting in cramped conditions at home before successfully applying for Porthmeor Studio 5 in 1949. He found in his new studio that “the light and scale are both very fine”, and he was now able to embark on large scale projects.

In 1950 he was working on a 6m wide mural for the Festival of Britain, and over the following years he produced some of his finest works at Porthmeor. He also played an active interest in the selection process for studios, recommending that his studio be given to either Terry Frost or Patrick Heron when left St Ives for Switzerland in 1958.