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Rachel Nicholson by Alan Wilkinson

Published 2010, Sansom & Co

Alan Wilkinson traces the development of her work from still lifes, land- and seascapes, townscapes, to the inside/outside views from her own flat in St Ives, from the houses and flats of friends, and the series of views from the Tate St Ives restaurant. He discusses the most important formative influences on her work.

In the Wilkinson/Nicholson interview, Rachel reminisces about her life in Hampstead from 1934 to late August 1939, when her parents, with the triplets, moved to Carbis Bay on the outskirts of St Ives. The main section of the interview focuses on her career as an artist and on her working methods. ‘Critical views’ consists of four previously published assessments. The sixteen, engaging ‘Appreciations’ were written especially for this book by friends, collectors, art dealers and three present and past Tate curators. Certain words and concepts recur: peace, quiet, quietness, simplicity, balance, calm and freshness of vision. They define the accessibility and captivating charm of Rachel Nicholson’s work.

For Private Passions Rachel invited Michael Berkeley to her studio and gave a rare interview, revealing the central role music has played for her, right from earliest childhood.


Rachel Nicholson has synaesthesia, which means that when she listens to music, she sees colours; so music provides inspiration when she's stuck, or searching for a new colour palette. She remembers sitting on the stairs listening to the music drifting from her mother's studio. She was so excited when she first heard Bach's B Minor Mass at Dartington Hall School that she spent all her pocket money going to every performance. Other music choices include Haydn, Scarlatti, Handel, Schubert, Mozart, John Adams, and Priaulx Rainier - a composer who was a close friend of Barbara Hepworth's, and whom Rachel Nicholson remembers well.

A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3

Produced by Elizabeth Burke.

Please click here to listen. 
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