Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981)


Winifred Nicholson was born in Oxford in 1893. She was encouraged to paint as a child by her grandfather, the artist George Howard. In 1912 she began her formal studies at the Bryam Shaw School of Art.

In 1920 Winifred met the painter Ben Nicholson. They married within the year and worked alongside each other in Italy, France, Devon and Cornwall and spent their Winters at a villa among vines on the mountainside above Lake Lugano in the Italian-Swiss Alps.

In Paris Winifred and Ben were able to see works by Derain, Van Gogh, C├ęzanne, Matisse and Picasso. They particularly admired the primitivism of Gauguin and Rousseau.

In 1923 Winifred and Ben exhibited alongside each other (the first of many joint exhibitions) at Paterson Gallery in London. The following year they acquired an old farmhouse, Bankshead, in Cumberland. The home became a source of huge inspiration for Winifred and remained so for many years. Artists such as Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens and Christopher Wood visited the Nicholsons at Bankshead and shared Winifred's love of the farmhouse and surrounding countryside.

Winifred joined the '7 & 5' Society in 1925 and exhibited there for a decade. In 1927 she was seriously injured when she fell through a trapdoor while hanging an exhibition at Beaux Arts. Thankfully, she made a full recovery and was given her first solo exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1930.

After separating from Ben Nicholson (who had met the artist Barbara Hepworth) Winifred moved with the three children to Paris in 1932. In Paris Winifred met many artists including Naum Gabo, Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. By 1938, with war looming Winifred returned to Britain (she also persuaded Piet Mondrian to travel with her to escape the threat of fascism).

Winifred was a keen traveler, together with the poet Kathleen Raine, Winifred visited the Hebrides and Western Scotland on a number of occasions during the early 1950s and in 1953 she exhibited works from these trips at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. She also visited the Scillies, Orkney and Catalonia in the 1950s and made numerous trips to Greece in the 1960s and '70s.

In 1969 a Retrospective exhibition was held at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. Shortly afterwards, 12 of her pictures were shown in The Helen Sutherland Collection, a touring exhibition which opened at the Hayward Gallery. In 1972 she was given a solo exhibition at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge. In 1979 she was given a retrospective exhibition, organised by the Scottish Arts Council, which travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh; Carlisle; Newcastle and Cornwall.
Winifred died at Bankshead in 1981.