William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

B for Beggar, circa 1898 (Portrait of James Pryde)

SKU: 2621

Chromolithographs after the original woodcuts

Each, 9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (25 x 20 cm.)


Height – 25cm x Width – 20cm


From the popular edition, circa 1898

Three editions of Nicholson’s celebrated Alphabet were published in
October 1897 – a De luxe edition (of around 50) printed directly from
the woodblocks and coloured by hand; a Library edition of lithographic
reproductions printed on laid paper; a popular edition of lithographic
reproductions printed on cartrigde paper.  The first impression of
the Popular edition was out of print by 1 January 1898.

William Nicholson was born in 1872, the same year as Aubrey Beardsley.
Though completely different in style and technique, each revolutionized
the course of graphic art in the nineties.
Nicholson and his brother-in-law, James Pryde-as the Beggarstaff
Brothers-developed a new form of poster art which combined masses of
three or four colors around a central silhouette. These vigorous forms
are in marked contrast to the tedious line work, which was then
characteristic of the Victorian period.
Through a recommendation by James McNeill Whistler, Nicholson began to
illustrate for the publisher William Heinemann. Between 1897 and 1900
he illustrated five works: An Alphabet, An Almanac of Twelve Sports,
Twelve Portraits, London Types, and The Square Book of Animals. In
addition, he designed Heinemann’s enduring windmill colophon.
An Alphabet, the first book to appear, contains 26 portraits. A
self-portrait appears as the first plate, followed by a portrait of
James Pryde. Nicholson cut the illustrations himself on woodblocks. A
small part of the edition was printed from the actual woodblocks, which
he then colored by hand. Most of the edition consists of color
lithographs after the woodcuts.
In An Alphabet and the subsequent works, Nicholson has refined the
original Beggarstaff concept. The backgrounds are now composed of earth
tones and black. In contrast to these muted masses is a most
purposefully restrained use of color. While other artists of the Art
Nouveau period were producing veritable color charts, Nicholson
demonstrated that less is more.
William Nicholson made his impact on the development of graphic art in
the twentieth century before his thirtieth birthday. Later he turned to
painting and stage design. He was knighted in 1936 and died in 1949.
His eldest son is the artist Ben Nicholson.

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William Nicholson
1872 - 1949

Sir William Nicholson (1872 – 1949) was an English painter, also known for his work as an illustrator and author of children’s books.
He was the son of William Newzam Nicholson, an industrialist and Conservative MP of Newark, and Annie Elizabeth, the daughter of Joseph Prior and Elizabeth (nee Mallam) of Woodstock, Oxon.
He was a student at Hubert von Herkomer’s art school. Nicholson’s partnership with James Pryde, his brother-in-law, was conspicuous for striking graphical work and woodcuts – they were known as the Beggarstaff Brothers, and their poster work was significant historically. He married Mabel Pryde (1871-1918), also an artist, in 1893.
After 1900 he concentrated on painting, encouraged by Whistler.
He was knighted in 1936. Ben Nicholson and Nancy Nicholson were his children; as was the architect Christopher ‘Kit’ Nicholson.
He was involved in illustrating early volumes from Robert Graves, with Nancy, who was Graves’ first wife. He wrote and illustrated characteristic children’s books: The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) by Margery Williams and his own Clever Bill (1926) and The Pirate Twins (1929) for Faber & Faber.
He also designed stained glass, notably a memorial window at St Andrew’s Church, Mells.


SKU: 2620

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Li Hung Chang


SKU: 2622

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Lord Kitchener, circa 1900


SKU: 2037

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Dr Temple, The Archbishop of Canterbury, c.1898


SKU: 2038

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Henrik Ibsen, circa 1898


SKU: 2040

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Sir Henry Hawkins, 1899


SKU: 1801

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

President McKinley, 1901


SKU: 1056

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Lord Roberts on Horseback, circa 1900