Acquisition of Ben Nicholson's Quai d'Auteuil for Wakefield's art collection
Quai d’Auteuil, considered to be one of the most important 'white reliefs' by the pioneering British artist Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) and of immense importance to the development of British Modernism, has been acquired by The Hepworth Wakefield.
Quai d’Auteuil takes its name from the Parisian street where it was made, when Nicholson was visiting his children and first wife, the painter Winifred Nicholson, at 48 Quai d’Auteuil.
Nicholson considered his white reliefs as compositions of purity and simplicity, describing Quai d’Auteuil as having "a marvellous peacefulness, exciting landscape of foothills, and mountains, and still sunlight and snow".
Quai d’Auteuil was one of Nicholson's largest white reliefs, measuring 109 x 118 cms. It represents a key moment in British Modernism, and indicates the radical approach that the artist was taking towards non-representational abstraction at the time.
This acquisition, and its display as part of the The Hepworth Wakefield's 10th-anniversary exhibition, Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, reestablishes Nicholson as being at the forefront of international prominence during the 1930s - not only as a chief exponent of abstract art in Britain, but also as a significant figure within the European avant-garde.
“The addition of this masterpiece to our collection will ensure the work is enjoyed by a broad and diverse audience, and enables us to tell the story of the development of abstract art in Britain with a work that matches the quality and importance of those we already hold by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Naum Gabo, and others.”
The Henry Moore Foundation awarded £15,000 towards the acquisition of Quai d’Auteuil by The Hepworth Wakefield in September 2021, alongside additional grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, and other trusts, foundations and generous individuals.