Finding Mabel Nicholson

Finding Mabel Nicholson

MABEL PRYDE NICHOLSON (1871–1918) was a portraitist of great skill and tenderness, working mainly within the compass of family life. The first wife of the eminent Edwardian painter William Nicholson, her story has only since been told as a footnote to his, or to those of her famous children, the abstract artist Ben and architect Kit. 

Extracting Mabel from the shadow of the men in her life, and piecing together who she was in order to give an account of her own artistic achievements, has been no easy task. From untrustworthy sources - like William's late-life partner, who described her long-dead rival as nervy, glowering, indolent and insular - to surviving family photo albums where Mabel frequently scratched or tore out her own face, Mabel Nicholson had all but disappeared from the story of modern British art. Even in the photographs of the artist which remained in tact, her look can change significantly from image to image, her face often turned away from the camera or shaded by the brim of a large hat. As Lucy Davies, author of the new book about the artist, explained: "piecing all of this together can feel like gathering the shards of a broken mirror and finding they don’t quite fit"

Yet as Lucy's research reveals, Mabel was, in fact, a free-spirited young girl, an adventurous and well-travelled woman; key to a glittering bohemian circle and one of the most significantly overlooked talents of early 20th century British art.

The new book MABEL NICHOLSON by Lucy Davies is available to pre-order now from Eiderdown Books. Publishes 20 July 2024. Order your copy here.

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