Winifred Nicholson Roman Road (Landscape with Two Houses), 1926

The paintings of Winifred Nicholson are the subject of the latest Artist in Focus exhibition at Kettle's Yard, which begins tomorrow and runs until December 21, 2012.

The exhibition, which brings together pieces owned by Kettle's Yard, rare archive material and a number of other works, takes a close look at one of the most important artists in the Kettle's Yard collection.

Winifred Nicholson’s paintings are above all studies of light and colour. Visitors to Kettle’s Yard house have long enjoyed Nicholson’s paintings and this display gives an opportunity to rediscover them.

The display will include a number of works not normally shown and archival material. Key themes, such as her theories on colour and her involvement with the European avant-garde will be explored.

Winifred Nicholson’s paintings capture the mood of landscapes, people and the flowers in each place and moment she painted. She worked quickly, usually completing a painting in a single sitting.

She frequently painted family and friends, and the landscapes of Cumberland, Scotland and Greece, although she is best known for her paintings of flowers. In 1974 she wrote: "I paint flowers, but they are not botanical or photographic flowers...The flowers are sparks of light, built of and thrown out into the air as rainbows are thrown, in an arc."

Moving between Cumberland, London and Paris, Winifred Nicholson was very much involved in the avant-garde in the 20s and 30s. In London she was a member of the Seven & Five Society and Circle; in Paris, Constantin Brancusi and Piet Mondrian were among her friends.

Winifred kept a painting by Mondrian on the wall at her Cumberland home Banks Head, and sent him paint supplies from England. She continued to travel extensively throughout her life, as far as Puerto Rico or Morocco, but Greece and Scotland were favourite destinations for painting trips because of the distinctive quality of light and colour. She died in 1981. In 1979 she wrote: “What I have tried to do is paint pictures that call down colour, so that a picture can be a lamp in one’s home, not merely a window.”

Kettle’s Yard founder H.S. (Jim) Ede met Winifred Nicholson in the early 20’s, and became a friend and supporter; he said Winifred ‘taught him much about the fusing of art and life’. Jim collected her work for more than forty years, and their correspondence continued throughout Winifred’s life. The relationship with Kettle’s Yard has continued with exhibitions of her work in 1972, 1987 and 2001.

Kettle’s Yard holds the largest number of works by Winifred Nicholson in any public collection. These works will be joined by two paintings generously loaned by Girton College, Cambridge. Winifred Nicholson’s grandmother was one of the founders of the College and her sister was the first woman to study agricultural science at the University of Cambridge.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication on Winifred Nicholson. Introduced by Kettle’s Yard curator Elizabeth Fisher, the book includes over 40 reproductions and draws together highlights from the artist’s own writings, including correspondence with key figures such as Jim Ede, fellow collector Helen Sutherland, and the poet Kathleen Raine.

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