Lachlan Goudie | Artist Insight10 Jun 2020
Lachlan Goudie discusses his discovery of the art of William Nicholson and how he has been inspired by the changing nature surrounding him during lockdown in Dorset.
I first saw the work of William Nicholson when I was a 20-year-old University student. I stumbled across an exhibition of the artist's landscapes and still life paintings at the Kettle’s yard gallery in Cambridge and encountering his work was a revelation - one that had an enormous impact on the way I would go on to paint.
"As an art student I was by nature and training attracted to colour. I admired painterly drama and virtuoso mastery of pigment in the work of artists like Titian, Velazquez and Manet. But Nicholson’s approach did not seem, immediately, to advocate any of these principles. His style was controlled, subtle, reserved - very English…
I already knew of Nicholson as one of the Beggarstaff brothers, the print making partnership between Nicholson and the Scottish artist James Pryde. Together they produced innovative and unprecedented graphic designs for posters in the late 19th Century. Nicholson's paintings, however, were completely new to me.
The exhibition included a selection of landscapes, principally of Sussex and the South Downs, and some still lives. All of the works were relatively small in scale, measuring around 60x50cm, but compressed within the modest proportions of these canvasses were images of extraordinary power.
What made the landscapes so striking was their use of composition. The geography of the Sussex downs was presented with a simple, stark force, the horizon line slicing horizontally across the canvas.
It seemed as if Nicholson did everything he could to underplay his subject, selecting unassuming geographical features, using a muted colour palette and allocating most of the composition to the sky. But the resulting paintings are mesmeric, the swell of the landscape filling these small canvasses with a real sense of the dynamism of nature.
The still lives were equally controlled. Nicholson depicted incidental collections of crockery, earthenware and silver. These subjects were often framed against a dark background, dramatically lit and demonstrated a careful manipulation of the colour palette.
Within the composition one drop of high intensity colour was regularly deployed in order to set off a chromatic fuse, turning conventional still life images into explosive studies of light, volume, texture and drama.
Throughout my childhood my father, the artist Alexander Goudie, guided me through the history of art. He pointed out the gurus to learn from, the paintings to revere, but Nicholson was entirely my own discovery. The manner with which he invested his small paintings of humble subjects with grandeur and intensity helped me to become more confident in my own work. They proved to me that whilst many artists fight for your attention with vast canvasses, ambitious subjects and experimental techniques, the painting of a mere still life or a landscape study is an act worthy of respect and is no less likely to create an awe inspiring and unforgettable result."
- Lachlan Goudie, June 2020
Please enjoy our audio clip below where Lachlan Goudie discusses how he has been inspired by his surroundings and the changes in nature whilst he has been in lockdown in Dorset.
Great Scots in Isolation is a series of short, 1-2 minute films made by a wide range of artists who are currently represented by The Scottish Gallery during the UK Covid-19 lockdown. These are artists from Scotland, the UK and internationally, who have very kindly agreed to reach out and say hello.
For this episode, we have a message from Lachlan Goudie, from an idyllic countryside setting, working on a new painting.