Saturday, 27 February 2010

Winifred Nicholson In Scotland

This post is for Claire - thanks for making me smile. Below my first ever snippety book overview!

I first heard about Winifred Nicholson from Maggie. I highly recommend a visit to her studio in Saltdean.

'Winifred Nicholson In Scotland' written by Alice Strang and published by the National Galleries of Scotland, accompanied an exhibition of the same name in 2003. It is a 64 page hard backed pocket book full of delights. Essentially it follows Winifred and friends such as poet Kathleen Raine on working trips to different Scottish islands in the late 1940's and 50's.

For me the opening photograph of Winifred painting in a cottage sums up the book. She is sitting at a kitchen table, painting on a canvas leaning at a slight angle, wearing a woollen cardigan. There is no easel, pile of paints, splattered overalls. I imagine her children might have sat opposite her as she worked, eating toast.

The book includes 22 colour reproductions of her paintings, 4 photographs and two reproductions of handwritten letters and poems. My favourite paintings are her flowers on windowsills, such as 'Loch Hourn' shown above.

Winifred writes

"This place looks even more beautiful this year in stormy weather, and it is even harder to paint. The high mountains shroud themselves and blot themselves out with white cloud with black cloud with drifting mist and drifting sunshine - the sea is silver black is azure is lead is white with sea horses, is not visible at all - Kathleen makes the house very gay with dozens of bunches of wild mountain flowers and we have a good fire of sea driftwood. I have painted 4 pictures this week"

"I like painting flowers - I have tried to paint many things in many different ways , but my paintbrush always gives a tremor of pleasure when I let it paint a flower - and I think I know why this is so. Flowers mean different things to different people - to some they are trophies to decorate their dwellings (for this plastic flowers will do as well as real ones) to some they are buttonholes for their conceit - to botanists they are species and tabulated categories - to bees of course they are honey - to me they are the secret of the cosmos"


  1. Wow, thank you for doing that! Her quotes are inspiring and I totally feel the same way about flowers ( and maybe teacups!) and I'm sure you're right about her painting while her family breakfasted, I was impressed with the same feeling about her.
    I just checked out that book on Amazon and there is only one and it's £121.00!!
    Yesterday I went to Kettle's Yard and saw some Winnifred's in the flesh - very exciting. I'll blog about it soon if you're interested. Nice to make a new bloggy friend! Claire.

  2. Glad you came back to see, I like bloggy friends!
    I paid about £10 for mine, so will keep my eye out for a copy in my travels. Working in the studio can be a little solitary, so it was good to exercise a few brain cells and reflect on her work. I look forward to hearing about Kettle's Yard, I will add you to my online links.


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