Spring oil on canvas 51.5 x 61 cm. (20 1/4 x 24 in.)
Winifred Nicholson was not an artist who repeated herself. Each painting bears the stamp of fresh experience. She naturally had themes she returned to throughout her long career, but it was the variations they offered that inspired her. Perhaps chief among her subjects were flowers on a windowsill, set against a luminous distance. The flowers were pot plants, or, frequently, wildflowers popped into jars, vases, jugs, bowls any handy or chosen vessel. But it was the translucency of flowers, the way sunshine passes through (or settles on) petals and leaves, lighting up their vital colour, that fascinated and challenged Nicholson more than anything. She saw light, and the surprising ways in which it is teased into endless subtleties of colour, as the painters almost visionary business.
Window light casts shadows, and shadows often played a telling part in Nicholsons paintings. Her shadows were not, however, dense and opaque, but infused with their own inner light and colour. Spring (and this may or may not be her title) unusually, but not uniquely, shows shadows cast but does not show the objects casting them. She observed how the window structure and the narcissi on the sill were projected. On the same surface rests a bowl she has filled with small spring flowers. These flowers crocuses, scillas, snowflakes, field pansies are hardly florists material, being fragile and short stemmed. They dont live long in water. They are however exactly the kind of flowers Winifred would have picked as a child, and continued to pick as an artist, gathering them to make a small indoor garden in a bowl. In this painting they are a quickly seen, poignant celebration of the diminutive and jubilant pleasures of spring. Spring was her favourite season.
We are grateful to Christopher Andreae for compiling the catalogue entry for this work, which will be included in his forthcoming book on the artist, to be published by Lund Humphries in June 2009.