Art: Beginning with Billiards

When he chooses, Ben Nicholson paints charming and recognizable still lifes and landscapes. He doesn't always choose. He also happens to be Britain's most revered abstractionist. For conservatives, there's the rub. In a book on Nicholson newly published in England, Art Critic Herbert Read rubs it in. You can't admire the still lifes and abhor the abstractions, admonishes Read, "without confessing to a prejudice that has nothing to do with the essential qualities of art."

Whether a confession of prejudice is required or not, most laymen will probably go on preferring Nicholson's more representational paintings. His paper-thin, impeccably tasteful abstractions strike some...

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