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E.Q. Nicholson

2 of 15 portraits of E.Q. Nicholson

© estate of E.Q. Nicholson / National Portrait Gallery, London

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E.Q. Nicholson

by E.Q. Nicholson
coloured inks and wax resistant crayon on paper, circa 1943
19 in. x 16 in. (484 mm x 410 mm) uneven
Given by Tim Nicholson, 1998
Primary Collection
NPG 6444

On display in Room 29 on Floor 1 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 7145: 'Work in Progress' (based on same portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 83 Read entry

    Elsie Queen Nicholson was the granddaughter of Eveleen Myers. When she was twenty her parents moved to Leckhampton House, where EQ, as she was known, designed the interior. In 1931 she married Kit Nicholson, youngest son of the artist Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949) and Mabel Pryde. EQ had learnt the art of batik in Paris during 1926 and back in London worked in this medium for the designer Marion Dorn. EQ continued to work whilst raising her family of three, printing with lino on fabric. In 1941 she started to paint and in 1945 made designs for machine printing for Alastair Morton of Edinburgh Weavers. In 1950 she showed paintings with Keith Vaughan (1912-77) and Peter Rose Pulham (1910-56) at the Hanover Gallery and the following year her wallpapers were produced by Cole and Son. EQ gave up fabric painting at the end of the 1950s, only resuming her design activities in the 1980s when she started making rugs. Her work is in the collection of the Tate and has been compared to that of Eric Ravilious (1903-42) and Edward Bawden (1903-89), both of whom were artists and designers.

    EQ was a great admirer of Braque, and there are shades of Cubism in this graphic yet dreamy work. In the lop-sided composition the glowing yellow/white head is balanced against the dark right-hand side of the page. This imbalance is underscored by the differentiation between her eyes but the effect is readjusted by the symmetry of her plaits and severe middle parting. There is a hint of a smile, almost a wink, at the viewer for being duped into thinking that portraiture is only about regular proportions. What seems simple here is in fact remarkably complex.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 459

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1943back to top

Current affairs

The War effort continues with women recruited to the Home Guard and Ernie Bevin introducing conscription of miners as coal output continues to flag.
There is panic when a new anti aircraft weapon is heard for the first time in London and 173 people die in the crush to enter an air-raid shelter at Bethnal Green tube station.

Art and science

Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb is used during Operation Chastise - the Dam busters Raid - to destroy three dams in the Ruhr area of Germany. The raid was considered a success, knocking out hydroelectric power, cutting off the water supply to industry and causing devastation through flooding. The operation also, however, cost the allies many lives, and the bouncing bomb was not used again.


The invasion of Sicily is successful thanks to Operation Mincemeat, in which false documents were planted on the body of a dead airman to mislead Germany into thinking that the Allied target was Sardinia. The invasion led to the fall of Mussolini and Italy joining the Allies.
42,000 German civilians are killed in a firestorm in Hamburg caused by the Allied bombing in Operation Gomorrah.

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