Francis Nicholson O.W.S. (1753-1844)
Dubbed the ‘Father of English watercolour painting’, Francis Nicholson is best known for his landscapes.
Nicholson was born in Pickering, North Yorkshire in 1753. He trained in Scarborough for three years before beginning his career back in Pickering, where he produced sporting pictures and portraits of his Yorkshire patrons.
The mid-1780s saw Nicholson’s interest shift toward painting scenes of country houses, and this eventually led to his experimentation and exploration of landscapes in watercolour. By 1789, his works were exhibited at the Royal Academy and his landscapes had been included in several publications.
Nicholson developed a technique with watercolour paintings which allowed him to create shadows and depth through the application/removal of beeswax. The Society of Artists purchased this method in 1799 and claimed that, through this practice, Nicholson had elevated watercolour paintings from simple, ‘stained drawings’ to possessing all the power of an oil painting.
Nicholson moved to London around 1801 and, three years later, became founder-member of the Society of Painters in Watercolours, as well as a prolific contributor to their exhibitions. In 1820, he published The Practice of Drawing and Painting Landscape from Nature in Watercolours. The book was so wildly popular that it sold out and a second edition promptly followed in 1823.
Nicholson revolutionised watercolour painting and ultimately paved the way for future landscape artists. JMW Turner was even said to have admired his work, citing Nicholson as ‘my model’.