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Kaiser Wilhelm II by William Nicholson

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Kaiser Wilhem caricature by William Nicholson 1915

Kaiser Wilhelm II by William Nicholson

Sir William Newzam Prior Nicholson 1872 - 1949
Painter, print-maker and theatre designer. His father was a member of Parliament and he studied art at the Academie Julian in Paris. Started his career as a designer of posters and as a book illustrator but soon became an innovative and celebrated maker of woodcuts. He broke ground with his experimental techniques Nicholson's first success as a graphic artist with a poster for a production of Hamlet.

Nicholson was inspired by woodblocks in English 'chapbooks' (cheaply produced popular pamphlets) and by the 'primitive' character of old woodblocks which he discovered in a Newark bookshop.

He first trained at the Bushey School under Hubert von Herkomer from 1888-1889 and then travelled to Paris where he studied at the Academie Julian from 1889-1890. Here he met James Pryde whose sister Mabel he married in 1893. Under the name of `J and W Beggarstaff' he and Pryde designed posters between 1893 and 1899; he also produced woodcuts published by Heinemanns between 1896 and 1900

In 1894, Nicholson began collaborating on poster designs with his brother-in-law James Pryde and the two became known as the JW Beggarstaff. Over the winter of 1896 Nicholson produced one of his most famous works. An Alphabet begins with 'A was an Artist'. This self-portrait depicted Nicholson as a street artist.

In 1897, Nicholson produced his famous portrait of Queen Victoria to celebrate her diamond jubilee, which became one of the most well-known British prints ever made and was published in Twelves Portraits.

From 1898 he exhibited at the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers being influenced by James Whistler who was President. In 1904 he was a founder member of the Society of Twelve.

Nicholson painted portraits throughout his life and was knighted in 1936. His work is represented in a number of museums, including the Tate Gallery in London.

The woodcuts were published, trimmed to the borders and mounted on cards some of which were signed in pen and ink. Later the prints were transferred to lithographic plates and sold either in deluxe Folio format or as bound books on thick hand made wove paper.
Publications include: An Alphabet (1896), An Almanac of Twelve Sports (1898), London Types (1899), and Twelve Portraits (1899/1900).