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Señorita 'S'

Date made: 1936

Artist: Nicholson, John Hobson

Description: Nicholson is well-known for his landscape and maritime scenes, but as this portrait shows he was also a more than competent portrait painter. Entitled 'Señorita ‘S’' it is thought to be a portrait of the artist’s first wife, Dorothy Nicholson.

The painting is a strikingly attractive portrait of a young woman in a colourful shawl - an archetypically Spanish image. The figure is tightly wrapped in a shawl, hiding her arms and hands. Is the shawl, with its ornate pattern, intended as a means of showing the artist’s technical expertise or does it symbolise the woman feeling trapped? Like her uneasy pose, the young woman’s face has a neutral and enigmatic expression. In the background are thin towers perhaps meant to represent Moorish minarets as found in southern Spain?

'Señorita ‘S’' was painted in 1936 at the height of the surrealist and symbolist movements when art could be figurative but also deeply imbued with meaning. 1936 also saw the start of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict which stimulated an artistic and literary response from across Europe as people either went to fight in Spain and/or reflected their feelings about the conflict in their work. This portrait, which appears conventional now, may have been far more emotive when it was first exhibited in London in the late 1930s.

The changes in portraiture throughout the 20th century can be seen by comparing this portrait with Morrison’s more conventional image of a child - painted 44 years earlier and Kneale’s more modern interpretation - painted 18 years later.

Measurements: unframed artwork: 87 cm x 60 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 1993-0075


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