Hand-coloured woodcut from the Deluxe edition of Twelve Portraits signed in ink.
Nicholson began his portrait of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) in response to a commission from W.E.Henley, the publisher of The New Review. Henley promoted Kipling’s work in his publication and the poet, by now known in three continents, was probably his ‘best-known protégé’.
Kipling had only recently returned to England from Vermont; in order to do the portrait Nicholson and his family moved to Rottingdean in the summer of 1897 to be close to the writer who was staying in the house of his uncle, Burne-Jones. Steen describes how ‘in the evenings, Kipling, who had taken a fancy to Mabel (Nicholson’s wife), used to come round, sit on a black box in their little, flea-infested lodgings and tell stories’. Furthermore ‘he and William took to walking the downs, exercising William’s son and Kipling’s daughter’. Within a short time a warm friendship formed between author and artist and the two collaborated on An Almanac of Twelve Sports which was published in 1898.
Kipling’s portrait first appeared as a supplement to The New Review in October 1897. It was re-issued in 1899 as no. 10 in the first series of Twelve Portraits.
Reference: Campbell 67. A.