Lot 2
  • 2

Sir William Nicholson

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Sir William Nicholson
  • Petunias and Chrysanthemums in a Mocha Jug
  • signed with monogram
  • oil on canvasboard 
  • 38 by 29cm.; 15¾ by 11¼in.
  • Executed circa the early 1940s.


Redfern Gallery, London, where acquired by Charles B. Cochran, 1943, and thence by descent to Lady Cochran
Browse & Darby, London
James Kirkman Ltd, London
Reginald Field Glazebrook
His sale, Sotheby's Brynbella, 2nd June 1994, lot 355 (as Chrysanthemums in a Blue Jug)
Private Collection, U.K.


London, Redfern Gallery, 1943, cat. no.132 (as Chrysanthemums in a Blue Jug).


Lillian Browse, William Nicholson, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1956, cat. no.377 (as Chrysanthemums in Blue Jug, dated circa 1925);
Andrew Nicholson (ed.), William Nicholson, Painter: Paintings, Woodcuts, Writings, Photographs, de la Mare Publishers Limited, London, 1996, p.207, illustrated (as Chrysanthemums in a Blue Jug);
Patricia Reed, William Nicholson, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Modern Art Press, London, 2011, cat. no.582, p.462, illustrated.

Catalogue Note

Petunias and Chrysanthemums in a Mocha Jug exemplifies the dynamic treatment of the still life subject that Nicholson had developed during the early decades of the 20th Century. The intricate interplay between the fluid bold impasto and the vivid and contrasting rich tones of the present work has become a defining characteristic of Nicholson's mature style.

Nicholson had always been fascinated by the play of light and shadow and, in particular, by the multifarious effects generated by the reflection and refraction of light caused by differing material properties. In Petunias and Chrysanthemums in a Mocha Jug, the dense yet delicate foliage of the bouquet is arranged to both counter-balance the shape of the jug and plate but also to contrast with the distinctive reflective properties of the glazed ceramic. The glistening qualities of the glaze undoubtedly provided an added dimension for Nicholson; the light caught the curves of the jug in a more interesting fashion allowing Nicholson multiple opportunities to show off his confident handling by capturing the highlights with simple yet bold strokes of impasto.

Nicholson had a particular eye for intriguing objects and his obsession with composing and creating the perfect still life provided a very necessary antidote to his hectic life as a fashionable society portraitist. Mocha decorated pottery, like the jug in the present work, was a form of utilitarian earthenware with coloured slip bands produced in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries, which incorporated a tree-like form resembling the natural geological shapes to be found on moss agate stone, known as ‘mocha’ stone. Mochaware was a particular favourite in the Nicholson family and William’s son Ben also had his own collection with similar jugs, which feature in works such as 1911 (striped jug) (destroyed) and 1929 (still life with jugs and mugs) (Private Collection). Like all of William Nicholson’s works in this genre, whilst it appears at first to be quite spontaneous and informal, in reality, Nicholson was very careful in his consideration of each composition, with the choice of objects and textures balancing each other supremely well. The jug and plate are carefully positioned slightly off centre towards the right of the composition and this is discreetly offset by the position of the flowers and their shadows on the opposite side, resulting in a sophisticated simplicity that demonstrates Nicholson at his best.