John Miller Nicholson, born on 29th January 1840, was the son of William Nicholson, a house painter and decorator, who lived un Church Street, Douglas.
He became the foremost artist on the Isle of Man. He was an excellent draughtsman and spent much time sketching, painting and photographing people and places of the Isle of Man.
After a trip to Italy he became much more impressionistic in style and no doubt he would have ranked among the great Victorian painters of his time if he had not been averse to public acclaim, and if he had had a more commercial attitude.
So there are parallels to the above in Knox’s life, which is not surprising given the fact that Nicholson gave freely of his time at the Douglas School of Art and was a huge influence on Knox.
The Archibald Knox Forum website (under Miscellaneous) has the full text of Archibald Knox’s paper about J M Nicholson and here is the end of that paper to show the debt that Knox owed to the great artist who was totally self-taught.
“I visited him in his workroom often, when I was young; later, less often and I saw him only in my holidays; I had not been long at work when I discussed with him the wisdom of the method of work into which I had been directed; the solitary lesson was for me the beginning of an independence in art matters that interested him throughout our long friendship; I saw him last before I set out for America; talked as always of art; I was still independent; colour of the imagination was grey; unattainable in the paint box equally with the gold in which he strove to contain his intention; form of the imagination, form of its colour, simpler and directly a subject of art more than Turner or the moderns had made it; his sympathy and encouragement seemed to have followed me all the days of my life.”
If you w
ish to find out more about John Miller Nicholson there are books and internet articles about him.
The Manx Museum has a major collection of his work, St Thomas’s Church, Douglas houses the murals he designed and examples of his illustrations can be seen in A W Moore’s The Manx Note Book 1885-87.
The grave and headstone designed by Knox has wonderful Celtic motifs on the front and sides plus typical Knox cut-aways on the base and grave surround.
The central part of the gravestone was originally picked out in gold, as were the Celtic motifs on both sides of the headstone. One of the photographs below shows the Celtic motif on the back of the headstone and this was also picked out in gold originally.
Space was left for other members of Nicholson’s family to be shown on this magnificent headstone and they are: Wife - Ann Jane, Daughter – Florence, Son – Frank and Daughter-in-Law – Levinia Florence Erato.
The image on the left shows details of the beautiful Knox design at the centre of the headstone.
Originally the pattern was picked out by the addition of gold colouring between the strands, or what looks like owls eyes at the top. The design depicts astylised artist's pallette.
The gold had all but worn away but this was cleaned and regilded by T E Cubbon Ltd,, monumental masons in 2o22.