A CONTINUOUS LINE BEN NICHOLSON IN ENGLAND
This summer Abbot Hall will play host to the first major exhibition of Ben Nicholson in the UK for over fourteen years. Curated by Chris Stephens, Head of Displays at Tate Britain and a leading expert on the art of St Ives from the 1940s-60s, it will focus on the artist's years in Britain from 1922 to 1958. Past exhibitions have concentrated on Nicholson's evolution of his international modernist style, and the cool reliefs he produced after he emigrated to Switzerland in 1958. However, this new presentation will highlight those periods that such earlier exhibitions have marginalised. While representing Nicholson's internationalism, this exhibition will set that wider perspective alongside his approaches to the English landscape, and will reveal a view of Ben Nicholson quite different from the established one.
This exciting project has evolved through a unique collaboration between Tate St Ives, Abbot Hall Art Gallery and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, and the exhibition will have its first showing in Kendal from 7 July to 20 September 2008, before travelling to Bexhill at the end of the year, and then to St Ives at the beginning of 2009. However, the exhibition is not simply a touring display in the conventional sense. Crucially, for such a high profile exhibition, it will not have a London showing, and indeed one of the central ideas behind the project is to link the evolution of the exhibition to the regions in which it is to be displayed.
Each of the three venues has a particular relevance to Ben Nicholson: Kendal, of course, is close to the Cumberland home he shared with his first wife; the architecture of the De La Warr Pavilion was the product of the international Modern movement to which he was central; St. Ives was seminal to Nicholson's art, and his home for nineteen years. Each venue will draw out these regional connections through the exhibition interpretation as well as associated events and activities, and there will be changing archive materials at each venue to create an evolving display which will reach out to local audiences throughout its duration.
Landscape is one of the principle genres of Western art. In early paintings the landscape was a backdrop for the composition, but in the late 17th Century the appreciation of nature for its own sake began with the French and Dutch painters (from whom the term derived). Their treatment of the landscape differed: the French tried to evoke the classical landscape of ancient Greece and Rome in a highly stylised and artificial manner; the Dutch tried to paint the surrounding fields, woods and plains in a more realistic way. As a genre, landscape grew increasing popular, and by the 19th Century had moved away from a classical rendition to a more realistic view of the natural world. Two of the greatest British landscape artists of that time were John Constable and JMW Turner, whose works can be seen in the Tate collection (www.tate.org.uk). There can be no doubt that the evolution of landscape painting played a decisive role in the development of Modernism, culminating in the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists . Since then its demise has often been predicted and with the rise of abstraction, landscape painting was thought to have degenerated into an amateur pursuit. However, landscape persisted in some form into high abstraction, and has been a recurrent a theme in most of the significant tendencies of the 20th Century. Now manifest in many media, landscape no longer addresses solely the depiction of topography, but encompasses issues of social, environmental and political concern.
UK, St Ives, Tate St Ives
- 24 January 2009 − 04 May 2009
UK, Bexhill-On-Sea, De La Warr Pavilion
- 11 October 2008 − 04 January 2009
UK, Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery
- 07 July 2008 − 20 September 2008