Wash Day in the Country

Nichols - Wash Day in the Country.JPG

Dublin Core



This view adopts some several conventions of folk painting: a non-linear perspective, extremely simplified renderings of structures and people; and a “coverage” of the scene that feels complete. The style was one of several for Nichols. Perhaps most intriguing here is a network of lines, or tributaries, that link together disparate elements. Smoke from a house at bottom reaches a vegetable plot, but goes no further; the trunk of a large tree at center continues upward as a road, and its branches all serves as “paths” to different objects in the painting. The washline at bottom left is just one of many lines.

About the Artist: Born in Maywood, IL, Nichols came from a wealthy family and at times struggled to find his own artistic voice. He trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, and the Art Students League. While studying at the Louvre, Paris in 1930, he became friends with the expatriate writer Henry Miller and painted his portrait with the Eiffel Tower in the background. For his part Miller wrote, hyperbolically, that “I feel convinced, when talking to [Nichols] that I am standing in the presence of a genius. I can see in him another Van Gogh, or better.[...] Nichols is a deeply cultured guy, a rich, ripe guy of the autumnal cities, a man of feeling, of intuition, of instinct, but also of great intellect, and of great ego...charming ego...charming effrontery. The child-man, the wonder-man, soft-voiced, musical, sure, suave, convincing, and never-ending” (Cosmodemonic). Not coincidentally Miller observed that a private income freed Nichols “to do what he wants,” which may be why one gallery owner recalled Nichols asking only $5 for his paintings: “I would say, ‘John, I can't give you $5. I’ll give you $20 for it.’ He'd say, ‘I can't accept that’...And whatever happened to John Nichols I don't know, but he painted in a Matisse-like manner and then went off to his own approach....He had marvelous reviews. I think money was not really the thing” (“Oral History”). Nichols’ work was exhibited throughout the 1930s and ‘40s at various galleries in Woodstock, NY, where he maintained a studio. His painting “Buzz Saw” was selected for the “New Horizons in Art” exhibit, MoMA (1936). He exhibited at the Federal Art Show, Woodstock, along with NDG artists Erna Lange, Leon Foster Jones. Ahead of a 1936 solo show at Sawkill Gallery, a press released described Nichols like this: “In spite of his conventional background and training he is somewhat of a rebel against established tradition” (Kingston Daily Freeman 24 July 1936: 6). 6 works at Woodstock Artists Association & Museum.

Sources Consulted" Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company: A Henry Miller Blog; (“Oral History Interview with Bernard Braddon and Sidney Paul Schectman, 1981 October 9,” Archives of American Art).


Nichols, John Crampton, 1899-1963








Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Watercolor on canvas?

Physical Dimensions

30 x 24 in.
Condition: surface dirt, scratches