William Nicholson

British, b.1872, d.1949

H.R.H. The Prince Of Wales

  • 1899
  • Lithograph
  • Purchased 1972
  • 277 x 254mm
  • 72/139

William Nicholson was a leading British graphic artist, poster designer and painter. It was James McNeill Whistler who introduced him to publisher William Heinemann, who produced Nicholson’s first major woodcut portfolio, An Alphabet, as a set of lithographs in 1897. Heinemann was less keen when shown Nicholson’s Diamond Jubilee portrait of Queen Victoria. The editor of The New Review, however, seized on the work and the result was a portfolio of seven lithographs from woodcut originals, representing popular figures of the day: the others were Sarah Bernhardt, Cecil Rhodes, Lord Roberts, former German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Rudyard Kipling and Whistler himself.

After the collapse of The New Review, Nicholson added five more subjects, including the heir to the throne, and had the series published in 1899 by a now more enthusiastic Heinemann. Nicholson’s Twelve Portraits series earned him a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. With encouragement from Whistler, he then concentrated more on his painting.

(The Moon and the Manor House, 12 November 2021 – 1 May 2022)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • In 1897 William Nicholson started his most famous group of prints, Twelve Portraits, which were studies of the most celebrated figures in English society of that time. The first portrait woodcut was of Queen Victoria, closely followed by the portrait of the Prince of Wales (later to become King Edward VII). Here the stark contrast between the figure and the virtually empty background gives the subject a stronger presence.

    During the short period he was active as a printmaker, Nicholson’s woodblock prints were perhaps the most revolutionary images in printmaking of the late Victorian era. Born in Newark-on-Trent, Nicholson studied at Hubert von Herkomer's School of Art in Bushey and at the Académie Julian in Paris. He began working with James Pryde, his brother-in-law, from 1894. They were very successful with the posters they designed under the name of Beggarstaff Brothers. Nicholson also exhibited with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. He was a founder member of the National Portrait Society. Nicholson was knighted in 1936. (Label date unknown)