Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) was one of the greatest British artists of the twentieth century, first coming to international prominence with his famous 'white reliefs' in the 1930s. Nicholson was born in 1894, in Eight Bells, Denham, Buckinghamshire, England. He studied, for a short time, at the Slade School 1910-11. His first solo show was held at the Adelphi Gallery in London in 1922.

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A pioneer of abstract art in Britain, he played a significant role in the European avant-garde, forming close links with Picasso, Braque, Arp, Mondrian and others. At the same time he had a strong sense of tradition, maintaining a life-long attachment to landscape and still-life. Central to the establishment of a modernist community in St Ives, Nicholson's importance as a disseminator of avant-garde ideas in Britain cannot be overstated. In 1951 he was commissioned to paint a mural for the Time-Life Building at the Festival of Britain; he had a retrospective exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1964, and two at the Tate in 1955 and 1969.

Nicholsons career spanned more than sixty years and embraced carved reliefs, paintings, drawings and prints. He received numerous awards during his lifetime, including the First Prize for painting at Carnegie's 39th International Exhibition (1952) and the Order of Merit from HM the Queen (1968).