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The beauty and symbolism of gold, from the Early Bronze Age to the 20th century

Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949)

Gold Jug 1937

Oil on canvas board | 40.9 x 32.7 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 409030

Nicholson enjoyed painting still-lifes and in the late 1930s he painted a small series of pictures exploring light on plate: 'Gold Jug', 'Silver' and 'Tall Pewter Jug'. The texture of his paint had become increasingly free over the years, and one of the delights of this picture is the way Nicholson catches the play of light on the lustrous surface. Jugs were an important part of Nicholson’s life and adorned the surroundings in which he lived. His son, Ben, later admitted: ‘But of course I owe a lot to my father – especially his poetic ideal and his still-life theme….from the beautiful striped and spotted jugs and mugs and goblets…which he collected. Having those things throughout the house was an unforgettable experience for me’.

Nicholson was born in Newark-on-Trent and studied in London and at the Académie Julian. He is best known for his woodcuts and, together with his brother-in-law James Pryde (the ‘Beggarstaff Brothers’ – Pryde found the name on a seed bag), for the development of the poster. Nicholson also became a successful portraitist and landscape painter. In 1897, Nicholson produced his most celebrated portrait, 'Queen Victoria', which became one of the most famous British prints ever made. He was knighted in 1936.