Still Life

Accession Number

Still Life

Ben Nicholson

Artist Nationality
British (modern)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on board

23 1/16 x 11 3/4 in. (58.5 x 29.8 cm);23 1/16 x 11 3/4 in. (58.5 x 29.8 cm);23 7/8 x 12 1/2 x 2 3/16 in. (60.64 x 31.75 x 5.4 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Ben Nicholson used his painting as a vehicle to bring the most advanced developments in modern art from Paris to his native England. In the 1920s his work engaged with Cubism’s new understanding of how people see the world and Post-Impressionists’ focus on the expressive function of color. In the 1930s Nicholson adopted the mathematical precision, clean lines, and absence of ornament that distinguished the style of geometric abstraction. This still life from 1945 synthesizes these various lessons into a style all his own. The overlapping of objects in space has been translated into a complex configuration of flat planes. The arc of a teacup’s saucer and apostrophe-shaped handles “punctuate” the rectilinear composition. Color is not associated with things but stands alone as pure color. This delight in formal invention over accuracy of description is a hallmark of the modernist tradition of painting.

Subject matter
A Cubist still life, depicting a bottle and drinking cups. The perspective is mildly fragmented and, through the use of the blocks of color as well as the blocky objects, the space is flattened into discrete planes.

Physical Description
An angular bottle executed in two tones of white stands tall just to the (viewer's) right of center. To its left is a stack of gray drinking cups. Irregular blocks of various sizes and colors make up the rest of the field.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
still life

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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Abstract (fine arts style)
cups (drinking vessels)
flasks (bottles)
modern and contemporary art
oil painting (technique)
oil paintings (visual works)
still lifes

2 Related Resources

(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Food Cultures
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved

On display

UMMA Gallery Location ➜ FFW, Mezzanine ➜ M01 (Joan and Robert Tisch Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art)