William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

President McKinley, 1901


SKU: 1801
Signed with initials and dated 1900, within the plate, titled in the margin
Lithographic reproduction of a hand-coloured woodcut, 10 x 9 in. (25.5 x 23 cm.) plate size, 21 5/8 x 15 in. (55 x 38 cm.) overall

Height – 25.5cm x Width – 23cm

46 in stock


acquired directly from the William Heinemann archive in 2002.

Published by William Heinemann, September 1901

Literature; William Nicholson The Graphic Work by Colin Campbell, published by Barry & Jenkins Ltd, London 1992.

This woodcut was originally made in 1900, the year Nicholson was awarded a gold medal for his woodcuts at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. 

Early in 1900 – presumably in response to an invitation –
Nicholson had sent a woodcut of the American president, William
McKinley, to Harper & Brothers in New York; and the print had been
published on the cover of the 30 June issue of Harper’s Weekly at the
time of McKinley’s renomination. `It may lack some of that easy and
decorative breadth which we are accustomed to look for in Mr
Nicholson’s original prints,’ said a writer in the December 1901 issue
of the Studio, `but if the hands are weak, or fidgety in treatment, the
face has the right significance, being full of that inner weight of
ease which the ill-starred President felt always under the burden of
his high office.’ On the strength of this woodcut, and also the Twelve
Portraits series (which had made the artist’s name widely known in
America), Nicholson was invited to the States to make some more
portraits for the magazine – this time from life.
On his arrival in
New York, Nicholson went round to Franklin Square, where he discovered
that it was presidential election year and Harper’s wanted portraits of
political figures. He was disappointed, for he had little interest in
politicians – especially American ones – and he suggested a compromise:
he would draw portraits of people like Governor Roosevelt and Boss
Croker of Tammany Hall; but he would also depict celebrities from other
spheres, in particular men from the worlds of art and science. Harper’s
agreed to this, and publicized the artist’s arrival in the pages of
their magazine. Nicholson, it was announced, would be in the States for
about three months to `study the lineaments of a selected number of
distinguished Americans’. Harper’s added that the visit was an historic
one. Normally, artists crossing the Atlantic were Americans travelling
to Europe; Nicholson, claimed Harper’s, was the first artist of any
note to travel in the opposite direction.

McKinley was shot by
an anarchist on 6 September 1901, and he died on 14 September.
Heinemann responded to this event by publishing a lithographic
reproduction of Nicholson’s woodcut portrait of the President. This
lithographic version was advertised at 2s 6d in the 21 September 1901
issue of the Outlook.

(William Nicholson, The Graphic Work, by Colin Campbell (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd 1992, pp 100 and 198)

Text from Harper’s Weekly;
William McKinley

A Hand-coloured woodcut
Before June 1900
Heinemann claimed that this woodcut was done from life, but in fact it must have made well in advance of Nicholson’s arrival in the United States in August 1900, for it was reproduced on the front cover of the 30 June 1900 issue of Harper’s Weekly (see catalogue no. 93B).
An impression entitled ‘The Late President McKinley’ was shown, a month after the sitter’s assassination, at the third International Society exhibition in October 1901 (no. 300).

B Reproduction of a hand-coloured woodcut on the front cover of Harper’s Weekly
1900 (30June)
This reproduction, which is signed (top left) ‘W. N.’, is the first of several reproductions of Nicholson portraits to appear in Harper’s Weekly.
Harper’s commissioned the artist to make portraits of politicians, but this proposal did not interest him, and he asked if he could provide the magazine with portraits of sitters from other walks of life as well. The portraits used by Harper’s Weekly are;
Theodore Roosevelt (see catalogue no. 95), Richard Croker (no. 96), William J. Bryan (no. 98), Wu Ting-Fang (no. 100), Mark Twain (no. 105) and Russell Sage (no. 107). 
McKinley appears to have been the only portrait submitted in the form of a woodcut.

C Lithographic reproduction of a hand-coloured woodcut.
Published by William Heinemann
1901 (c. 21 september)
McKinley was shot by an anarchist on 6 September 1901, and he died on 14 September. Heinemann responded to this event by publishing a lithographic reproduction of Nicholson’s woodcut portrait of the President (93A). This lithographic version was advertised at 28 6d in the 21 September 1901 issue of the Outlook.
An example of this lithographic reproduction was reproduced in the December 1901 issue of the Studio.

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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: 2040

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Sir Henry Hawkins, 1899


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: 1801

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

President McKinley, 1901


SKU: 1056

William Nicholson (1872 - 1949)

Lord Roberts on Horseback, circa 1900