I've been told that this print depicts Turn-of-the-Century American boxer Jack Johnson—who toured the world as a prizefighter. Of this, I'm not certain. What I do know is that the print was made by Sir William Nicholson, RA in 1898. Nicholson was an accomplished fine artist, a painter, who paid the rent with his recognizable prints of sporting events, fictional characters or people of arts, letters and politics. He would create the original artwork by carving into a woodblock from which he would make his first prints. Once a good woodblock print had been produced, Nicholson would use the newly-invented lithography to create quality reprints, usually in portfolios of a dozen (or so). Two other things which Nicholson produced were the illustrations for The Velveteen Rabbit (1922) and his son, Ben (1894), who became famous in his own right as a Modernist painter.
I had the good fortune of seeing an exhibit of Nicholson's work at the Royal Academy in London. Nicholson was a sensational painter—and I would have happily hung any of his works in my home. I loved everything.
This print, conservation-mounted in an antique quarter-sawn oak frame from the period, can be seen by clicking on the photo above.
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