About this artwork

The English artist Sir William Nicholson was a successful portrait painter and the father of leading modern artist Ben Nicholson. From 1888-91 he trained at Herkomer's School in London, where he met Scottish student Mabel Pryde. He married Mabel in 1893 and the following year formed an artistic partnership with her brother James. As the ‘Beggarstaff Brothers’, William Nicholson and James Pryde collaborated on a series of striking poster designs inspired by French artist Toulouse Lautrec. This chalk or crayon drawing is one of a pair; the other one is a portrait of Pryde by Nicholson. Both drawings were published as illustrations for an article about the Beggarstaff Brothers’ studio, printed in the journal ‘Figaro’ on 25 February 1897.

Updated before 2020

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James Ferrier Pryde

James Ferrier Pryde

Pryde was born in Edinburgh and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy Schools from 1886 to 1887. He grew up with a love of the theatre and even worked for a time (without much success) as an actor. Living in London from 1890, Pryde and his brother-in-law William Nicholson (portrayed in William Orpen's 'A Bloomsbury Family') set up a partnership as poster artists under the name 'The Beggarstaff Brothers'. Their modern, simplified style revolutionised poster design. As a painter, Pryde specialised in dark interiors and architectural fantasies. The majority of these works were done before 1925, though he did produce some designs for theatre sets later in life.