English Painter, 1872 to 1949.
Nicholson was a painter,
print-maker and theatre designer. His father was a member of
Parliament and he was sent to study art at the Academie Julian in
Paris. He started his career as a designer of posters and as a book
illustrator but soon became an innovative and celebrated maker of
woodcuts. He broke ground with his experimental techniques
Nicholson's first success as a graphic artist with a poster for a
production of Hamlet. Many of Nicholson's contemporaries were
influenced by Japanese woodblocks and the black-line cuts of 15th
century Italian artists. Nicholson, however, was inspired by
woodblocks in English 'chapbooks' (cheaply produced popular
pamphlets) and by the 'primitive' character of old woodblocks which
he discovered in a Newark bookshop.
He first trained at the Bushey
under Hubert von Herkomer
from 1888-9 and then travelled to Paris where he studied at the
Academie Julian from 1889-90. Here he met James Pryde whose sister
Mabel he married in 1893. Under the name of `J and W Beggarstaff'
he and Pryde designed posters between 1893 and 1899; he also
produced woodcuts published by Heinemanns between 1896 and
In 1894, Nicholson began
poster designs with
his brother-in-law James Pryde and the two became known as the JW
Beggarstaff. Over the winter of 1896 to 7 Nicholson produced one of
his most famous graphic works. An Alphabet begins with 'A was an
Artist'. This print was an ironic self-portrait showing Nicholson
as a pavement artist. Other prints ranged from Elizabethan to
modern subject matter. 'G is for Gentleman' was a traditional
subject; 'U is for Urchin' was more contemporary. Another departure
from tradition was the exclusion of moralising verses.
As early as 1890 the artist had
make woodcuts and
experiment with addition of subtler tints of green, ochre and umber
to black and white images. He soon became known for his skill in
the medium, elevating the art form aesthetically and commercially.
In 1897, Nicholson produced his most celebrated portrait, Queen
Victoria, which became one of the most famous British prints ever
made.The publisher’s prospectus of 1897 advertised three formats
work: The Popular Edition, lithographed in colours on cartridge paper,
for 5s.-2d., The Library Edition, lithographed in colours on Dutch
hand-made paper, in cloth for 12s.6d., and The Edition de Luxe, printed
from the original woodblocks, hand-coloured and signed by the artist,
for 12 pounds, 12s. net.
Fame was established, by
celebrating Queen Victoria's diamond jubileein 1897. This was
published in Twelves Portraits
From 1898 he exhibited at the
International Society of
Sculptors, Painters and Gravers being influenced by James McNeill
Whistler who was President. In 1904 he was a founder member of the
Society of Twelve, and held his first one-man show at the Paterson
Gallery in 1906. He was also responsible for several theatre
designs including the original sets for Peter Pan in 1904.
Although perhaps not suited to a
Nicholson painted portraits throughout his life and despite his
detachment form artistic public life, was knighted in 1936. His
finest portraits depict sitters with whom he was in sympathy,
excelling in his portrayal of close friends. He was knighted in
1936, and his work is represented in a number of museums, including
the Tate Gallery in London.
The woodcuts were published
trimmed to the
borders and mounted
on cards many of which were signed in pen and ink;, in excellent
condition Later the prints were transferred to lithographic
plates;and sold either in deluxe Folio format or as bound books on
thick hand made wove paper.
An Alphabet (1896),
An Almanac of Twelve Sports (1898),
London Types (1899), and