William Nicholson is widely admired for his work as a painter, printmaker and theatre designer. William Newzam Prior Nicholson was born on the 5th of February 1872 in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Nicholsonís talent for art was noticed early on, and from the age of twelve he enjoyed private drawing lessons from his school drawing master William Cubley. Nicholson left school at the age of 16 to study at Hubert Herkomerís School of Art in Bushey; however Nicholson was not impressed by the dogmatic teaching there and by October 1891 he left England for Paris. Once there Nicholson studied at the Acadťmie Julian and soon discovered the treasures of the Louvre. Nicholson decided to return home after several months and at some point between 1890 and 1892 he made his first woodcut. In April 1893 Nicholson married Mabel Pryde, who he had met at Herkomerís, and together they moved to Denham, Buckinghamshire.


In 1894 William Nicholson made his first poster design in partnership with his fellow artist, and brother-in-law, James Pryde. The two artists produced various poster designs under the pseudonym J. and W. Beggarstaff over the next few years; these were greatly admired at the International Artistic Pictorial Poster Exhibitions held at the Westminster Aquarium in 1894 and 1896.

Nicholson soon turned to the woodcut medium in earnest. In 1896, after seeing Williamís woodcut of the Prince of Walesís Derby-winning horse Persimmon at the Fine Art Society, Whistler recommended the young artist to his friend the publisher William Heinemann. This collaboration was to prove the turning point in Nicholsonís career as a printmaker and key series of Ďcutsí including An Alphabet, An Almanac of Twelve Sports, London Types, and Twelve Portraits were published by Heinemann to great acclaim over the next few years.

After 1900, despite winning a gold medal for his woodcuts at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Nicholson decided to make painting, rather than printmaking, his principal activity; he needed a break from engraving blocks and was finding it hard to support his growing family on what he earned. However Nicholson did return to printmaking at regular intervals over the following years, and it was printmaking that had made his early reputation. Nicholson went on to have great success as a painter, particularly for his portraits and still-lives. In 1936 he was awarded a knighthood and Nicholson was given a retrospective exhibition of his work at the National Gallery in 1942.

William Nicholson died on the 16th of May 1949 at Blewbury in Berkshire.

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