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Helen Sutherland, patron, collector and friend of Ben Nicholson

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Frances Spalding CBE


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Ben Nicholson's artistic inheritance from his father Sir William Nicholson left him determined to 'bust up the sophistication' all around him and to renew and refresh representation in art. This article acknowledges existing scholarship on the trajectory of this artist's career, but it inserts into this narrative a hitherto largely overlooked ingredient, that of the understanding and encouragement provided by an early patron who followed his move from a seemingly primitive form of naturalism into pure abstraction and offered crucial support over forty years to him and, at an importnat moment, to his second wife Barbara Hepworth. It examines the signficant shifts in Nicholson's career in relation to key paintings and reliefs, either acquired by Helen Sutherland or given to her by the artist.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Spalding F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Burlington Magazine

Year: 2013

Volume: 155

Issue: 1324

Pages: 480-488

Print publication date: 01/07/2013

ISSN (print): 0007-6287

ISSN (electronic): 2044-9925

Publisher: Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd

Notes: This is a commissioned article for the Burlington Magazine's special issue on collectors and collecting, to be published August 2013. It draws on hitherto unused correspondence between Ben Nicholson and Helen Sutherland, with reference also to Ben Nicholson correspondence with the Tate curator H.S.Ede and with another collector Marcus Brumwell. It also draws on minutes of board meetings of the Tate Trustees in order to demonstrtae how much in advance of the Tate Helen Sutherland was in her understanding and patronage of this artist.


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