Ben Nicholson

Friday 18 May and Saturday 19 May
Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Ben Nicholson c.1932. Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

This two-day conference, which has been made possible with the support of the British Academy, will aim to provide a significant (re)evaluation of the art, life and legacy of Ben Nicholson. Without doubt an important figure in the history of 20th century art, the presentation and reception of Nicholson’s work has at times been ambivalent. Whilst viewed by some as an innovator within visual modernism others have positioned Nicholson, at best, as a receptive follower of artistic trends abroad. In turn, the artist’s engagement with an ‘international’ avant-garde has appeared to have created a certain degree of anxiety concerning his identity as an English artist, and vice versus. The conference will consider such issues alongside other key questions surrounding the artist’s career, including recent research into the private spaces in which Nicholson produced and displayed his work.




Friday 18th May





Opening of Conference: Lee Beard (British Academy Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art)


SESSION 1    Chair – David Peters Corbett (University of York)

10.45 - 11.15

Ysanne Holt (University of Northumbria): ‘Restless as the Wind in Matters of Place’: Ben Nicholson at Banks Head’

11.15 - 11.45

Andrew Causey (University of Manchester): Nicholson and the “Primitive”

11.45 - 12.15

Jeremy Lewison (Independent Art Historian): Trauma, Conflict and Competition: Ben Nicholson and Family Matters

12.15 - 12.45


12.45 - 13.45



SESSION 2    Chair – Robert Burstow (University of Derby)

13.45 - 14.15

Margaret Garlake (Independent Art Historian): Ben Nicholson: Spaces, Places, Landscapes

14.15 - 14.45

Charles Harrison (Open University): Nicholson and the Decline of Cubism

14.45 - 15.15


15.15 - 15.45



SESSION 3    Chair – Christopher Green (Courtauld Institute of Art)

15.45 - 16.15

Paul Hendon (Open University): Ben Nicholson’s Studio Photographs in ‘Unit One’

16.15 - 16.45

Lee Beard (British Academy Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art): Photography and the Reflected Image’

16.45 - 17.15

Lucy Inglis (Independent Art Historian): A ‘Common Idea’: Ben Nicholson, Jean Gorin and International Style Abstraction of the 1930s

17.15 - 17.45






Saturday 19th May


SESSION 4    Chair – Lee Beard (British Academy Fellow, Courtauld Institute of Art)

10.30 – 11.00

Alice Strang (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art): Circle of Friends: Ben Nicholson and Leslie Martin

11.00 - 11.30

Andrew Stephenson (University of East London): Ben Nicholson and Debates Around Abstraction and Modernism in the Home in the Late 1920s and 30s

11.30 - 12.00

Robert Burstow (University of Derby): Ben Nicholson: the postwar public paintings

12.00 - 12.30


12.30 - 13.30


13.30 - 15.00

SESSION 5    Chair – Virginia Button (Independent Writer and Curator)

Round Table Discussion: Exhibiting Nicholson
Participants - Charles Harrison (Open University), Jeremy Lewison (Independent Art Historian) and Chris Stephens (Tate Britain)