Pallant House Gallery presents an exhibition of paintings and drawings by the influential Nicholson family, who along with their circle of friends, made a major contribution to modern British art. Drawn from a rare private collection which joins the Gallery on long-term loan, the exhibition includes works by Sir William Nicholson and his wife Mabel Pryde, their sons Ben and Kit Nicholson and partners Winifred and EQ Nicholson and friends such as Lucian Freud and John Craxton.

Many of the works in the show were owned by Elsie Queen Nicholson (known as E.Q), whose Hampshire home, the Alderholt Mill House, gives its name to the collection, several of which were given to her by the artists themselves. Described by her friend John Craxton as a ‘painter's moll, with a wonderful gift", E.Q was a celebrated textile and interior designer, who during an intense period of just fifteen years produced some 120 works in gouache, inks, pencil, watercolour, pastel and collage. The exhibition features a number of works by EQ including portraits of her husband and young son, still life paintings and pictures of the Mill House gardens and surrounding area, all reflecting the simple domesticity of their existence.

E.Q. lived at the Mill House from 1941 to 1947, having moved out of London to escape the bombs. For much of the time her husband, Kit, was away at war but she was kept company by her friend John Craxton, who later maintained that it was in ‘EQ's hospitable home' that he first found himself as a painter, citing her ‘joie de vivre' as the catalyst for a fruitful period of landscape painting. The exhibition includes Craxton's atmospheric watercolours of Alderholt Mill and the surrounding landscape which show the development of his engagement with Neo-Romanticism.

Lucian Freud, a close friend of Craxton was another frequent visitor and the exhibition includes his drawing of Craxton in the sitting room at the Mill House in which he is depicted holding a nib pen and ink. It is shown alongside other works produced by the artist in the vicinity such as a drawing of E.Q.'s donkey facing the viewer head on, a position Freud subsequently repeated in later works.

E.Q. had become a member of the Nicholson family in 1931 when she married Christopher (Kit) Nicholson, the younger son of William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde and brother of Ben. Both William and Mabel were respected painters and the exhibition includes one of Mabel's works inherited by EQ, The Grange, Rottingdean (1912) which shows a 13-year old Nancy Nicholson sitting in a chair staring ahead while her brother Kit is framed in a far-off doorway, and William's painting The White House, Sutton Veny (c.1926) which he gave to E.Q. and Kit and hung on the wall of the Mill House.

Though Kit had also wished to be a painter, he was discouraged by his father, and instead studied architecture at Cambridge and Princeton Universities. In 1933, after setting up practice in London, Kit began a number of commissions, including one to make alterations to Durham Wharf, the Thames-side studio and home of Julian Trevelyan and his wife, the potter Ursula Mommens who had been a girlhood friend of E.Q. The exhibition includes a 1946 painting of Durham Wharf by Trevelyan, produced just two years before died Kit tragically in a gliding accident.

Ben Nicholson, Kit's brother, always held E.Q in high esteem and the exhibition includes one of the collage greetings cards he made for her and Kit. It also includes a 1934 woodcut by Ben, ‘5 Circles', made at a time when the painter was also constructing his white-painted carved, incised reliefs with layered and juxtaposed circles, squares and rectangles.

Ben's first wife, Winifred Nicholson, features in the exhibition, most strikingly through her portrait of Kit (1928) as a young man absorbed reading a book. The painting provides a fitting companion piece to Portrait of William Nicholson and ‘Ben with Slinky' (Also known as 'A Portrait of Ben Nicholson with Slinky the Dog') which are represented in the Gallery's collection, also on long-term loan.

Katy Norris, Curator of the exhibition says: "Bringing together paintings and drawings from the Mill House collection with works by the Nicholsons already on long-term loan to the Gallery, provides a fascinating insight into the creative lives of the Nicholson family and their friends, their close awareness of each other's work and the uniquely collaborative spirit which enriched and fed their individual practices."