Exhibitions

Winifred Nicholson: Liberation of Colour

“The nature of abstract colour is utter purity – but colours wish to fly, to merge, to change each other by their juxtapositions, to radiate, to shine, to withdraw deep
within themselves.”

Liberation of Colour explores the art of Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) renowned for the faux naïve charm and scintillating colours of her flower still lives. It brings together works from throughout her career in which she approached the genres of landscape and portraiture as well as still life alongside her experiments in
abstraction.

The exhibition will examine the major periods of the artist’s creativity taking inspiration from the places she visited or in which she lived. These include her early visits to Lugano, Switzerland, in the early 1920s after her marriage to Ben Nicholson and her periods of residence in Paris during the 1930s where she met and befriended artists such as Piet Mondrian, Jean Hélion and Naum Gabo. In the 50s and 60s the Scottish Isles and Greece were favourite destinations and throughout her life her beloved Cumbria was a constant to which she returned.

Winifred Nicholson wrote a number of articles about her understanding of light and colour, and the exhibition will examine her writings using specific pictures to illustrate her ideas on colour theory. After she acquired some prisms from a
physicist in the mid-1970s her painting took on a new direction. Looking through the prism she saw objects with a halo of rainbow colour; exploring this phenomenon in the last few years of her life, her paintings often verge on the abstract. “I found
out what flowers know, how to divide the colours as prisms do … and in so doing giving the luminosity and brilliance of pure colour.”

The exhibition has been curated by the artist’s grandson Jovan Nicholson and includes many never before or rarely exhibited works from private collections alongside previously unseen letters and photographs.

Winifred Nicholson: Liberation of Colour has been organised by Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, part of Teeside University, with Jovan Nicholson.