LONDON - Roger Fry put children's art on the map in 1917 when he organised an exhibition of children's drawings – he wrote that children's art exemplified “just the kind of invention, just that immediate expressiveness, which we admire so much in primitive art.” It was precisely this 'immediate expressiveness' that drew Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood to the work of Alfred Wallis who they 'discovered' in 1928. They were captivated by his untutored vision and the 'child-like' spontaneity of his pictures, which appealed directly to their modernist sensibilities.


Alfred Wallis’ Four Sailing Ships. Estimate £30,000-50,000.

Nicholson himself had started young – with both parents as artists, he was immediately immersed in art. An unfinished portrait of a young Ben by his father, Sir William Nicholson, demonstrates quite how central painting was to family life.


Sir William Nicholson’s unfinished portrait of his son, the artist Ben Nicholson.

Picasso once said: “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Clearly no issue for Ben Nicholson whose magisterial 1967 (silver brown) from the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the highlights of our Evening auction.


Ben Nicholson’s 1967 (silver brown). Estimate £400,000-600,000.

Follow Ben Nicholson's example and join us with your family on Sunday, 8 June from 12-5pm – collect a children's activity booklet exploring many of the paintings in the sale (don't miss the Modern British Picture Hunt!) and make sculpture inspired by Anthony Caro.  

Email britart@sothebys.com for further information and to reserve an activity booklet.

Tags:Auctions, London