Roger Nicholson was born in 1922 in Wahroonga, New South Wales. He
was the youngest of seven children and his parents had emigrated to
Australia on a free passage before World War One. Life there was hard
and Nicholson's father was eventually committed to an asylum. The
family returned to England in 1930 without their father and moved
Roger Nicholson's artistic talents
were soon noticed and he was granted a scholarship to the Royal College
of Art. He entered the painting school there in June 1940. Soon after,
Nicholson was called up and stationed with the 51st Royal Tank regiment
in North Africa. He continued to paint and examples of his work, now
in the Imperial War Museum, London depict army life there. Indeed,
after the war Nicholson was to comment that landscape painting had
quite literally saved his life by endowing him with a gift of intense
observation that often led him to place his tank on the safest ground.
Following the war, he returned
to the RCA to complete his studies under the benevolent eye of Gilbert
Spencer and the Principal, Jowett, who believed him to be "an
artist of distinction who should go far." In 1945 he went on
to set up an industrial and graphic design partnership with his brother
Robert, forming "Nicholson Brothers," one of the most promising
firms in the country. Nicholson began teaching illustration and graphic
art at St. Martin's from 1945 and he was brought back to the RCA by
Robin Darwin as Professor of textile design in 1958. Aside from teaching
he continued to produce commercial designs, such as the now famous
'Palladio' wallpaper design as well as fabric designs for the Cotton
Nicholson produced a varied body
of work documenting all the phases of his life in portraits, landscapes
and abstracts, all informed by his sureness of line and colour: "It
was Roger Nicholson's gift and curse as an artist that he was incapable
of making an ugly mark on a piece of paper." His brother Robert
remembered his facility as an artist, recalling "the extraordinary
rapidity and certainty of his hand, and there is the same facility,
the same ease of execution in almost everything he painted. He could
draw beautifully. He could draw like Edward Lear - but then he could
paint too like Sutherland, Hockney, Nash and almost anyone else."
Nicholson remained an intensely
private man, disliking commercial galleries and reticent to exhibit.
He died of cancer in 1985. Painting was always his life. He took great
pleasure in observation and the joy of recording life around him.
"Painting," he wrote, "the use of one's eyes and imagination,
is the best use of life."
Paintings by Roger Nicholson are
held in a number of private collections. The Imperial War Museum,
London holds several paintings by him in their collection.
Gallery. Roger Nicholson 1922-1986. 1995.