John­nie Bo­den’s favourite paint­ing

John Mcewen com­ments on The Lus­tre Bowl with Green Peas

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

The cloth­ing-cat­a­logue doyen chooses a lus­trous Ni­chol­son

John­nie Bo­den is cre­ative di­rec­tor of mail-or­der fash­ion com­pany Bo­den, which he founded in 1991

‘drags My wife, So­phie, in an at­tempt to civilise me, of­ten me to ex­hi­bi­tions, mu­se­ums or churches. When we went to the Wil­liam Ni­chol­son ex­hi­bi­tion at the Royal Academy in 2004, I had, un­til then, only re­ally seen his Al­pha­bet and Months se­ries. But that show was unique; I loved ev­ery paint­ing. And this one was and is my favourite. So sim­ple, so stun­ning. Above all, the flash of light that lifts it out of the or­di­nary. I want to know more. What sort of per­son owns the bowl? What is go­ing on in the room? And why peas with sil­ver? I also feel and love the it’ melan­choly here. I never tire of look­ing at

Ni­chol­son met Ma­bel Pryde —and her brother, James— when they were stu­dents at herkomer’s Art school, Bushey, hert­ford­shire. in 1893, they eloped to Den­ham, near Bushey, where they were joined by James. The two men formed the Beg­garstaffs in 1894, pro­duc­ing posters and prints, in­clud­ing the wood­cut port­fo­lios of An Al­pha­bet and An Almanac of Twelve Sports, for which they are both prob­a­bly still best known. Ma­bel gave birth to Ben, who would achieve greater artis­tic celebrity than his fa­ther, the same year. The part­ner­ship ended in 1899, when nancy, fu­ture wife of Robert Graves, was born.

This paint­ing was done af­ter they moved from Lon­don, by now a fam­ily of six, to The Grange, Rot­tingdean, East sussex, in 1909—the year ni­chol­son met Marie Laque­lle, who be­came his model and then his mis­tress. it’s the first of the lus­trous still-lifes that are, to­day, his most cov­eted paint­ings and was a gift for pub­lisher Wil­liam heine­mann, an at­tached let­ter dis­clos­ing that the sub­ject was painted for a bet.

The chal­lenge of de­pict­ing lus­tre­ware of all types was a source of en­joy­ment for ni­chol­son there­after, en­cour­aged by his col­lect­ing English ver­nac­u­lar pot­tery. sil­ver lus­tre—earth­en­ware cov­ered with a plat­inum-lus­tre glaze—was a pop­u­lar sub­sti­tute for real sil­ver in the early 19th cen­tury, not least be­cause it didn’t tar­nish.

Ben ni­chol­son in­her­ited his fa­ther’s taste for pot­tery as a favourite sub­ject. in 1918, Ma­bel died and Wil­liam no­to­ri­ously took Ben’s fi­ancée as his sec­ond wife. Judg­ing by his greater pop­u­lar­ity for this page than his son, he trumps him posthu­mously as well.

The Lus­tre Bowl withGreen Peas, 1911, by Sir Wil­liam Ni­chol­son (1872– 1949), 21½in by 23½in, Scot­tish Na­tional Gallery of Mod­ern Art, Ed­in­burgh

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