George Washington Nicholson (1832 - 1912 )

George Washington Nicholson was born near Salem, New Jersey in 1832. Although he spent most of his working career in Philadelphia, he lived in Camden, New Jersey from 1890 to 1895 while keeping a studio in Philadelphia. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but only exhibited there once. Nicholson retired to the southern New Jersey town of Hammonton, where he lived from about 1902 until his death in 1912.

Nicholson's subjects were primarily landscapes, frequently including figures. Although some of his landscapes can be easily identified as realistic depictions of local sites, many are generalized scenes showing European influence. Stylistically his work represents the academic brand of realism so popular in the United States and Europe in the late 19th century.

Nicholson moved to Hammonton 1902 and purchased a house on upper Central Avenue; that residence was remembered by many as the Measley house. The artist lived in Hammonton until his death in 1912 at the age of 80. The artist's son, George F. Nicholson, was a florist in downtown Hammonton for many years.

According to The Hammonton News (Feb. 26, 1926), a portrait of Nicholson himself was painted by no less famous an artist than John Singer Sargent. As a result of a bequest from one of the artist’s most devoted patrons, many of his paintings are now in the Widener University Art Museum in Chester, Pennsylvania.

(KNO, Spring 2007)

A Moorish Bazaar Portal

A Moorish Bazaar Portal, n.d., oil on panel, 29 3/4 by 19 3/4 inches. Photograph courtesy Widener University, Alfred O. Deshong Collection.
Winter Scene

Winter Scene, n.d., oil on panel, 11 5/8 by 15 5/8 inches. Photograph courtesy Widener University, Alfred O. Deshong Collection.
Landscape with Inlet

Landscape with Inlet, n.d., oil on canvas, 11 3/4 by 15 1/2 inches. Photograph courtesy Widener University, Alfred O. Deshong Collection.

The paintings shown above are from the Alfred O. Deshong Collection at Widener University. They were purchased by Deshong, a wealthy resident of Chester, Pennsylvania, directly from the artist. Through his connection to Deshong, Nicholson was given a commission to paint a large farmyard scene, The Old Homestead, for the department store of Wanamaker and Brown in Philadelphia. That painting is now privately owned. Another large painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, was painted for the Pennsylvania State House in Harrisburg but probably burned in the 1897 State House fire.

The first painting shown above, “A Moorish Bazaar Portal,” illustrates Deshong's interest in Eastern and exotic subjects. As a collector, Deshong “gathered a collection of high grade paintings, ivory carving, and old Japan bronzes, etc., which was known far and near for the superior character of the articles it contained.”(1)

The other two paintings, “Winter Scene” and “Landscape with Inlet,” are also typical of the artist's work. Nicholson painted many landscapes with a strong “genre” component involving figures and buildings. Many are winter scenes and many depict quaint cottages and rural life. The artist's oeuvre also includes marine subjects - some of which depict the Jersey shore.

(KNO; updated 2011)

(1) “Alfred O. Deshong (1837-1913) and the Deshong Collection,” typed information sheet, Widener Universtiy Art Collection and Gallery, Chester, Pennsylvania.


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