The Nicholsons were a significant family of artists who, along with their circle of friends, had a major impact on Modern British art in the first half of the 20th Century, most famously through the close association of Ben Nicholson with the artistic legacy of St Ives.
This exhibition of paintings and drawings, drawn from an important private collection which joins the Gallery on long-term loan, explores the many and varied connections between members of the family and includes works by Sir William Nicholson and his wife Mabel Pryde, their sons Ben and Kit Nicholson and partners Winifred and E.Q. Nicholson.
Many of the works in the show were owned by the celebrated designer Elsie Queen Nicholson (known as E.Q), whose Hampshire home, the Alderholt Mill House, gives its name to the collection. E.Q. lived at the Mill House from 1941 to 1947, having moved out of London to escape the Blitz. For much of the time her husband, (Christopher 'Kit' Nicholson), 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 also 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 additionally 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.