Sir William Nicholson (British, 1872-1949) La Place des Papes, Avignon (or Place de Palais, Avignon/Le Château, Avignon) 43 x 35.5 cm. (17 x 14 in.)
Lot 30* AR
Sir William Nicholson
(British, 1872-1949)
La Place des Papes, Avignon (or Place de Palais, Avignon/Le Château, Avignon) 43 x 35.5 cm. (17 x 14 in.)
Sold for £ 34,850 (US$ 46,306) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sir William Nicholson (British, 1872-1949)
La Place des Papes, Avignon (or Place de Palais, Avignon/Le Château, Avignon)
signed 'Nicholson' (lower right)
oil on canvasboard
43 x 35.5 cm. (17 x 14 in.)
Painted in 1925


    With Beaux Arts Gallery, London
    The artist
    Purchased from the above by Ralph C. Smith, Sydney, in 1942 (or 1939), (£73 10s)
    Private Collection, Australia

    London, Goupil Gallery, Spring Exhibition, 1925, no.69A (as La Château, Avignon)
    London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Pictures and Drawings by William Nicholson, 30 June - 30 July 1927, no.22 (£50)
    Glasgow, Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd., Exhibition of Paintings by William Nicholson, April 1928, no.24
    Nottingham, Museum and Art Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by William Nicholson, 11 March - 24 April 1933, no.46 (£44 2s)
    London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by William Nicholson, 1 May - 2 June 1933, no.26
    Manchester City Art Gallery, Platt Hall, Works by William Nicholson, 24 June - 23 July 1933, no.45; this exhibition toured to Scarborough Public Library, 4 August - 2 September 1933, no.21; Folkestone, Public Art Gallery, 30 October - 28 November 1933, no.59; Belfast Municipal Museum & Art Gallery, February 1934, no.60 (£44); Lincoln, Usher Art Gallery, 7 July - 7 August 1934, no.7; Newark Municipal Museum, 24 September - 24 October 1934, no.5 (for sale)
    London, Beaux Arts Gallery, Exhibition of Early Paintings by Richard Sickert and William Nicholson, 5 - 26 May 1939, no.15 (as Place du Palais, Avignon (£45)
    Warminster, Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, Exhibition of Paintings from the Beaux Arts Sir William Nicholson, Richard Sickert, and other Eminent Artists, 11 February - 30 March 1941, no.21 (as Place du Palais, Avignon (45 gns)
    London, National Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Sir William Nicholson and Jack B Yeats, 1 January - 15 March 1942, no.51

    Lillian Browse, William Nicholson, London, 1956, no.319 (as Place du Palais, Avignon)
    Patricia Reed, William Nicholson: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Yale University Press, London & New Haven, 2011, p.427, (ill.col)

    In mid January 1925 the artist and his wife Edie traveled to Avignon where they spent a very successful three week painting holiday, staying at the Hotel d'Europe in the Place Crillon. Nicholson was delighted by the cold, bright light and cloudless pale blue skies.

    This composition, featuring the buildings opposite the Papal Palace at Avignon, is a highly structured one and more ambitious than Nicholson's prewar townscapes. Here he employs a limited palette with subtleties of tone, as in the other surviving Avignon paintings. The foreground of the canvas is occupied by the shadow of the Palace itself. Left of centre is the narrow opening of the Rue des Monnaies leading to a sunlit street beyond – a classic study in perspective. Further left is the corner of the famous Hotel des Monnaies with a carved eagle on with its balustrade, although little celebrated façade is visible. (At this date it was the School of Music.) The shadow of this building and its cornice at first floor level links the adjoining building which is returned with a projecting wing. The white external shutters and wooden internal shutters, plus the occasional dark window openings, add interest to the façade of this unknown building. The scene is almost deserted yet, there are many possibilities in the narrow street and shuttered building whose purpose is unclear. A sense of movement is given by the zigzag line that runs from the foreground left, punctuated by a dark figure, and continues right with a sunlit pathway up hill and includes a walking figure in the centre; distant figures can be seen in the shadows of the Rue des Monnaies.

    This work has not been seen in public in Europe since it was shown at Nicholson's retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 1942.

    We are grateful to Patricia Reed for compiling this catalogue entry.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that this work is oil on canvas, not oil on canvasboard.
Auction information

Bonhams' November sale achieved a number of high profile records, including the highest price in London that week within a sale of Modern British Art - Allies by Lawrence Holofcener fetched an impressive £409,250. The department are especially proud to have secured a new world auction record for Walter Richard Sickert. Painted circa 1904, Woman in Profile with Downcast Eyes was discovered in Australia and following intense bidding realised £229,250. Irish Art fared well too, with Paul Henry's charming Old-Age Pensioners going for £109,250 while Colin Middleton's iconic Muriel fetched £70,850 – both finding Irish buyers.

The next auction will take place on 29 May and closes for entry in April. Already consigned are museum quality works that are fresh to market by LS Lowry, FE McWilliam and Edward Seago, among others.

For confidential advice or valuations please contact a member of the department. Our London-based specialists travel throughout the UK and in 2013 and will also be visiting locations including Ireland, South Africa, US, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia.

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  1. Penny Day
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