Ben Nicholson - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | Phillips

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  • I suppose mine are really drawings on prepared copper and I like very much the clear line and resistance of the material and the smooth run of the implement”
    —Ben Nicholson

    Alongside his paintings and reliefs, for which he became internationally established, Nicholson made a significant body of prints that he produced in phases throughout his life. After an initial foray into relief printing, mainly using linocut, the artist dedicated the years following the Second World War to drypoint. Treating printmaking as another form of drawing, Nicholson said of his own practice "the bite of the steel point into the metal is a terrific experience when all goes right and the necessity I am finding to reduce the idea to a series of lines is interesting."


    Both Trendrine (1948) and Pisa (1951) derive from this period of the artist’s practice. Their solid forms and defined lines illustrate Nicholson’s application of the drypoint needle as a drawing implement. Comparable to his quick studies and preparatory drawings, these drypoints capture Nicholson’s keen eye for observation and rapid draftsmanship. From a small edition of six, Trendrine is signed in the plate – a unique, richly inked print from the series.


    Trendrine closely resembles other works from Nicholson’s stays in Cornwall. As in 1940 (Cornish Landscape), Nicholson contrasts the soft rolling hills of the countryside against the strong geometric shapes of the man-made. Alongside Pisa, which was created three years later, Nicholson’s simplified buildings demonstrate the artist's ability to understand the character inherent to an object. Coming from the Rentsch collection, these rare proofs demonstrate the artist’s ability to command a new technique and make it his own.


    In a long life spanning London, St Ives, and Switzerland, Buckinghamshire-born Ben Nicholson paved the way for abstraction in Britain. Admired by peers, Nicholson spent his career moving seamlessly between the figurative and the abstract. While pioneering his painted reliefs – his great contribution to Modernism – he continued to be inspired by the many influences coming out of Europe. He travelled to the studios of Picasso, Braque, Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian to explore art as expression and understand how these artists pushed boundaries to, in Nicholson’s words, "flout convention." Spending much of his life in England, Nicholson heavily involved himself with his contemporaries. For example, Nicholson co-founded Unit One with Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, a group whose aim, according to Paul Nash, was "to stand for the expression of a truly contemporary spirit, for that thing which is recognised as peculiarly of today in painting, sculpture and architecture."

    • Provenance

      Collection of Dr. Frank Rentsch
      Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      François Lafranca 20
      Alan Cristea 29 (this copy illustrated)


Pisa (L. 20, C. 29)

Drypoint, on wove paper, with full margins.
I. 19.8 x 14.9 cm (7 3/4 x 5 7/8 in.)
S. 24.5 x 18.6 cm (9 5/8 x 7 3/8 in.)

Signed, dated, numbered 3/20 and annotated 'one other copy?' and 'drypoint' in pencil, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£4,000 - 6,000 

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 18 - 19 January 2023