Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949) was an English artist well known for his unique style of woodcut prints. Beginning in the 1890s, he created posters with his brother-in-law James Pryde, using the pseudonyms J. & W. Beggarstaff. In 1897, Nicholson produced a woodcut print of Queen Victoria that was very well received and helped establish his reputation with the British public.
About that same time Nicholson cut a series of wood blocks of An Illustrated Alphabet for publisher William Heinemann. Interestingly, the image used for “A” is a self-portrait of Nicholson, and “X” was used for Xylographer, which is a woodcut artist.
Originally issued in a very small run of hand colored woodcuts, their popularity led to the images being transferred to lithographic stones and printed in a bound volume. This was soon followed by two other similar series of images, An Almanac of Twelve Sports and London Types.
Nicholson’s style is instantly recognizable, with the broad strokes from his original woodcuts printed with subtle variations of earth tones, harking back to earlier British chap book illustrations. After the turn of the century, Nicholson turned more to painting, though he did continue to produce illustrations for several books. The prints from his three bound plates volumes offer a wonderful sample of Nicholson’s vision and also of British culture at the end of the nineteenth century.