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Item Name: Print
Title: Clown and Assistant, N.D.
Maker: Jack Nichols
Year: 1964
Country: Canadian
Materials: lithograph
Measurements: in frame: 71 cm x 90 cm; work: 47.6 cm x 66.7 cm
ID Number: ART 025
Legal Status: ART RENTAL

Extended Label Info: This moody, softly textured print is a lithograph by the Canadian artist, Jack Nichols. Lithography is a printing process that is traditionally done as a drawing with a grease pencil on prepared limestone. When the artist rolls ink onto the surface, it is repelled by the grease in the drawing, and sticks to the blank stone areas. The print is made by placing paper onto the inked stone, and run through a printing press. The process results in velvety blacks. Nichols is adept with this dark colour palette, and his images often portray a sense of anguish, fear, and anxiety. This artwork, “Clown and Assistant” is part of a series that Nichols did about circus life, depicting the contrast that he felt between the transient sparkle and alluring spectacle of performance with the deeply moving, pervading melancholy that he felt underlies all humanity. Jack Nichols (1921-2009), was a painter and printmaker. Born in Montreal, and orphaned at a young age, Nichols taught himself to draw. He grew up during the economic depression of the 1930s, and by the time he was fourteen he had already worked at a wide variety of jobs. He spent all of his money on art supplies, and was fortunate to mentor informally with the painter Louis Muhlstock. Nichols and Muhlstock often spent time drawing together, documenting the daily life of ordinary people in Montreal. Moving to Ottawa in 1936, Nichols studied drawing at the Ottawa Art Association with Frederick Varley, a member of the Group of Seven. During the early 1940s, Nichols lived in Toronto, and worked summers as a deckhand on the Great Lakes. His drawings were exhibited at Hart House, which led to a commission from the National Gallery of Canada to document the Canadian Merchant Marine (1943). In 1944 he enrolled in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, and was appointed an official Canadian war artist. Nichols was present at the D-Day landings in Normandy (June 1944), and his artwork focused on the human experience of war. Acutely sensitive to his subjects, Nichols’ drawings convey a sense of the ever-present spectre of death. Post-war, Nichols was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship (1947-48) and travelled in the USA, studying mural art, and print-making. Lithography became his love, and his career was spent alternating between teaching, travel and study. Nichols represented Canada at the Venice Biennale (1958) and his artwork has been exhibited widely in Canada and internationally. His work is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, the National Gallery of Canada, and the National War Museum.