Cumbria On Canvas: Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland

Winifred Nicholson, Northrigg Hill, c.1926. © Trustees of Winifred Nicholson Winifred Nicholson, Helen’s Bunch in Helen’s Pot, 1974. © Trustees of Winifred Nicholson Winifred Nicholson, Ullswater, 1946. © Trustees of Winifred Nicholson Abbot Hall Art Gallery will host activities for Lakes Alive 2017, photo by Tony West

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, in Kendal, presents a new exhibition from 8 July – 15 October 2016 exploring the creativity of Winifred Nicholson viewed through the paintings she made in Cumbria (or Cumberland as it was then), where she lived for large parts of her life.

Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland is curated by Winifred’s grandson Jovan Nicholson and includes about 45 paintings, many previously unseen from private collections, alongside some of her best loved paintings.

The exhibition is divided broadly into three sections: Bankshead in the 1920s and 1930s, Boothby and the Lake District post war, and Bankshead again for the last two decades of her life.

‘Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland’ will be the first museum exhibition to concentrate solely on the paintings she made in Cumbria, and will break fresh ground as many of the paintings have not been seen before.
– Jovan Nicholson

// Bankshead in the 1920s & 1930s

In the early 1920s Winifred Nicholson moved to Bankshead, a house situated on Hadrian’s Wall, and although she moved around during that decade Bankshead was where she spent most of her time and where many of her paintings were made.

Winifred was at the forefront of modern painting in Britain during this decade, producing paintings such as Bankshead Flowers in an Alabaster Vase that explore her ideas about colour.

My paintings talk in colour and any of the shapes are there to express colour but not outline. The flowers are sparks of light, built of and thrown out into the air as rainbows are thrown, in an arc.
– Winifred Nicholson

// Boothby

Early during the Second World War Winifred Nicholson moved to her parent’s house Boothby, not far from Bankshead, and this was to be her Cumbrian base for the next twenty years where she painted views from the house as well as interiors. Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland provides an insight into the varying ways she explored these scenes.

While at Boothby Winifred Nicholson made many trips to the Lake District painting variously at Ullswater, Borrowdale, Cockley Moor, Skiddaw, and the Duddon Valley. She also painted at St. Bees Head looking towards the Isle of Man, the Solway, Walton Moss and the Eden Valley. Winifred Nicholson delighted in the stone circles of Cumbria and depicted both ‘Castlerigg’ and ‘Long Meg and Her Daughters’.

// Return to Bankshead

The last section of the exhibition covers the period during the 1960s and 1970s, when Winifred Nicholson returned to Bankshead and made paintings looking from her house towards the North Pennines, often during the winter. Winifred Nicholson had always explored and experimented with colour, and in the last few years of her life she began to make paintings inspired by the use of a prism.

She wrote about her late pictures…

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 will include a number of these prismatic paintings, as she herself named them, as well as some works on paper that she made that verge on the abstract and have a rare visionary quality about them.

Winifred Nicholson, Accord, 1978. © Trustees of Winifred Nicholson
Winifred Nicholson, Accord, 1978. © Trustees of Winifred Nicholson

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// Winifred Nicholson in Cumberland

Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal from 8 July – 15 October 2016

The exhibition is sponsored by Sanlam, Kirkby Lonsdale

// Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Situated in the centre of Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery offers a rich mix of art, culture and history whilst undertaking an annual programme of innovative exhibitions. The Gallery holds many fine examples of 18th- and 19th-century painting, as well as a substantial collection of work by Ruskin. Modern artists include German refugee Kurt Schwitters, who also had a local connection – spending his final years in the area – while contemporary works by Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Lucian Freud are also shown.

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