Picasso & Modern British Art

  • 4th August − 4th November 2012 | Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art | £10 (£7)

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson always acknowledged his debt to Picasso. In December 1933, in his statement for the modernist group publication Unit-One, he listed Picasso, as one who had a made ‘a vital contribution’ in ‘the last epoch’. Nicholson also recalled to his biographer John Summerson the experience of seeing a cubist Picasso in a Paris gallery as setting a standard ‘by which I judge any realty in my own work’.

Nicholson was able to meet Picasso only a few times, the first in March and April 1933, and his relationship with Picasso was not with the man himself but with the work encountered during his visits to Paris. Before 1934 opportunities to see works by Picasso in London were rare and in 1930 Nicholson encouraged the director of the Lefevre Galleries to hold an exhibition, but the gallery director doubted whether the London public was ‘ready for a Picasso exhibition yet’.

Picasso’s collage-like paintings and his later cubist works provided the starting point for Nicholson’s first abstract works which featured overlapping flat planes and rectilinear patterns. These pictures relate to aspects of Picasso’s work from the late 1910s and 1920s, such as repeated forms, decorative arrangements and the use of still-life objects.

Next: Henry Moore