William and Mabel Nicholsons' Studio Re-opened

Rafaele Appleby and Councillor Mo Marsh
©Tony Mould; all images copyrighted

Re-opened by artists’ descendant

In lovely Autumn sunshine, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Mo Marsh officially reopened the refurbished William Nicholson Studio, or as his great –grand daughter Rafaele Appleby told us earlier during a study day at Whiteway Centre,  William and Mabel’s studio.  For it seemed his wife used it as much as he did, and it was the sale of one of her paintings that paid for it !

Exhibition at The Grange

Rafaele, continuing a tradition of creativity which runs through the family  came down from her Cumberland home to trace the landscape which had attracted an elegant and accomplished Edwardian artist to Rottingdean. Her lively exhibition at the Grange Gallery is in the very house which Nicholson renamed and had Edwin Lutyens restyle before the first World War.

Introduction to the artists

At the Whiteway Centre built in the further reaches of his garden , the study day included an introduction to Sir William  by Peter Merry an artist and collector of Nicholson’s early woodcut graphics done with his brother-in-law James Pryde as the Beggarstaff Brothers. Then Jackie Parry, (University of Sussex) broadened the story to explore William’s famous son Ben, the abstract artist married to Winifred Nicholson and then to Barbara Hepworth, both famous in their own right.

The continuing tradition

It was the women artists in the family that Rafaele introduced us to in the afternoon, a wonderful display of images showing the same sense of spontaneous delight, individuality and energy shown in Rafaele’s own work. Within the Studio itself was displayed a fine portrait of Sir William done by Rafaele’s daughter. So the tradition continues. The Studio, with its fine North facing window and even light sits in the grounds of St Margaret’s C of E Primary School. It is a facility, which will be shared between the school and the Whiteway Centre for adult learning next door.

Plaque unveiling

So it was fitting that at the unveiling of the plaque that Simon Harteley, head master of St Margarets, Peter Hewetson-Brown, chairman of Whiteways Trustees and Chris Davidson of Rottingdean Preservation Society (who administer the Grange) should join hands to recognise the sharing of William and Mabel’s studio.


Comments about this page

  • Happy news ! –  Nicholson’s paintings “Windmill, Rottingdean Downs” and “Downs with Distant Windmill” are particularly evocative, I think.  They show the extent of the Grange grounds, with its “miles” of beautiful old flint wall. – I have fond recollections of the Studio as a place for school music lessons.  When the wind blew, how the building would creak !  Draughty then, perhaps, but a place full of character. – Good knowing it’s now restored and being put back to its original use, to the benefit of the whole community.  I wish this venture, the William Nicholson Studio, every success.

    By Sam Flowers (27/09/2017)

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