William Nicholson, born in Newark-on-Trent in 1872, was taught in his local town until he became, for a short while, a student at Hubert von Herkomer’s art school. Here he met his first wife, Mabel Pryde, and through her, her brother, James Pryde, with whom Nicholson collaborated on graphic works (calling themselves the Beggarstaffs/J & W Beggarstaff). In 1891-2, Nicholson briefly attended the Académie Julian in Paris.
Nicholson had a variety of strings to his bow, but from about 1900, he focused on painting, first exhibiting these works at the International Society. In 1904, he designed the set for Peter Pan, and in 1922, supplied the illustrations for The Velveteen Rabbit. Nicholson also wrote and illustrated two of his own books for children. In 1928, he took part in the Art competitions at in the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and was awarded a gold medal in the graphic works section. Having turned down membership of the Royal Academy in 1926, Nicholson later became a trustee of the Tate (1934-1939). In 1936 Nicholson was knighted, in part due to his virtuosic portraiture. Eight years later, he was given a retrospective at the National Gallery (having had a touring retrospective organised by the Castle Museum, Nottingham, in 1933), and in 1947, a travelling exhibition was mounted by the Arts Council of Great Britain. He died in Berkshire in 1949.