Located on the south side of the Alps and surrounded by rugged peaks, Lago Maggiore divides the Piedmont and Lombardi regions in Italy, and its northern most tip occupies the Ticino region in Switzerland. The glittering waters and picturesque landscape have long made the location a major attraction for some of history’s most important figures: Ernest Hemingway chose the lake as a key location for his Farwell to Arms, and Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine visited Isola Bella, one of the lake’s islands, as did several members of the British Royal family.
LAGO MAGGIORE FROM THE TERRACE OF BEN NICHOLSON AND FELICITAS VOGLER’S HOME (PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT THE ESTATE
OF FELICITAS VOGLER).
In 1958 the lake attracted Ben Nicholson, one of Britain’s most established and respected artists, who left Cornwall to set up a new life with the photographer Felicitas Vogler, whom he had recently married. They built a house above the town of Brisago, Switzerland, with amazing views looking down across the water and towards the mountains in the distance. The house itself was purposefully built for their individual artistic needs, with a dark room for Vogler and a large painting and drawing studio for Nicholson.
INTERIOR OF BEN NICHOLSON AND FELICITAS VOGLER’S HOME IN TICINO (PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT THE ESTATE OF FELICITAS VOGLER).
The move proved to be an extremely successful one, heralding an Indian summer for Nicholson, and opening up the next chapter in a career already filled with achievement. Having been firstly exposed to the area in his youth, he fell further in love with the varied landscape that surrounded him, and the location proved particularly inspiring for his work.
BEN NICHOLSON AND FELICITAS VOGLER’S HOME IN TICINO, 1966 (PHOTOGRAPH COPYRIGHT THE ESTATE OF FELICITAS VOGLER).
As he eloquently describes, “The landscape is superb. The persistent sunlight, the bare trees seen against a translucent lake, the hard rounded forms of the snow topped mountains, and perhaps with the late evening moon rising beyond in a pale, cerulean sky is entirely magical with the kind of poetry which I would like to find in my painting,” (Ben Nicholson, quoted in Norbert Lynton, Ben Nicholson, Phaidon Press, London, 1993, p.311).
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M., NOV 59 MYCENAE 3 (BROWN AND BLUE), ESTIMATE: £100,000-150,000.
The move to Switzerland removed Nicholson from the internal politics of the British art world and the rivalries that had emerged with his peers. It gave him a new breadth in his work that synthesised so much that had gone before it, creating a magisterial style. The grand new studio allowed him to make large-scale paintings, such as Oct 61 (Mycenae - Axe-Blue) (sold at Sotheby’s, 11th July 2013, for £1,082,500). Two reliefs, which are to be included in our upcoming sale of Modern & Post-War British Art on the 9th of June 2015, Nov 59 Mycenae 3 (brown and blue) and dec 63 (pillar with circle), emerged from just this time and are wonderful examples of his mature style.
BEN NICHOLSON, O.M., DEC 63 (PILLAR WITH CIRCLE), ESTIMATE: £150,000-250,000.