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Kate Nicholson (British, b. 1929)

Kate Nicholson, the daughter of Ben and Winifred Nicholson, was born in Bankshead, Cumbria, but is more closely associated with St Ives, which she visited with her parents as a child, and where she settled in 1956. She became a teacher, having studied art at Bath Academy between 1949 and 1954, but above all is known in her own right as an exceptionally talented and subtle painter. She joined the Penwith Society of Artists, renowned for its breakaway modernism, in which her father had played a key role, and despite her modest output was represented in the Arts Council tour ‘Six Young Painters’ in 1961, and has had solo shows at Waddington Galleries and the Marjorie Parr Gallery in London. Commercially available examples of her work are extremely scarce.

Peter Maber

Kate Nicholson. Untitled (Coastal Light)

Untitled (Coastal Light)
Watercolour and gouache
inscribed to the reverse
54 x 71cm. Beige painted wooden frame.


During her most productive decade, the 1960s, Nicholson's work became increasingly abstract, distilling elements of the landscape into primal essences, and foregrounding, like her mother, effects of light and colour. 'Untitled (Coastal Light)' recalls late Turner, in particular his 'Land's End' paintings of the 1830s. As is typical of Nicholson, the work depends upon the interplay of forces: of the contrasts between watercolour swathes and luminous strokes of gouache; and between rapid, thrown paint that runs, and thicker, opaque application that sits firm. The work is structured around the curve form, as well as around colour, moving out of the shadows to climax in the intensity of the yellows and ochre of the centre. As in Turner, there is the suggestion, perhaps, of waves breaking on rocks, and of sunlight breaking through cloud and rain; but the painting refuses to resolve itself, and remains powerfully subtle in its abstraction.

2001-2016 Cambridge Book & Print Gallery