John Miller Nicholson was the son of William Nicholson, a Douglas house painter. Educated at Douglas Grammar School, his natural artistic ability was recognised at an early age. Nicholson spent many years copying pictures, photographs and designs as a method for improving his art, producing as a result vast quantities of pencil sketches of Douglas. By the 1870s his labours were rewarded when his work was exhibited in London at the Royal Academy. He also at this time came to the attention of John Ruskin, a leading champion of the Arts and Crafts movement. On Ruskin’s advice Nicholson travelled to Italy in 1882, bringing about a development in his style. Nicholson worked for the family firm of decorators, played the piccolo for a theatre orchestra and even painted theatrical scenery. His artwork included paintings, drawings, illuminated addresses and the murals of St Thomas’s Church, Douglas. Art: Nicholson’s early work is defined by its attention to fine detail. He produced pencil sketches filled with copious marginal notes which provided the basis and inspiration for later paintings. His visit to Italy led to his style becoming less detailed and more concerned with colour, light, shade, composition and atmosphere. …the success he achieved in dealing with colour…accurate in drawing and in the weights of colour; full of a knowledge of light… His skill with pigments was perfect; no modern painter has it in an equal degree… Archibald Knox, 1913.
Calm winter morning, Douglas by John Miller Nicholson ©Manx National Heritage (1954-2501/031)
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