Whether in her paintings, drawings, sculpture or stained glass, Sylvia Nicolas expresses the humanity of her subjects. This humanistic view, mingled with Nicolas’ versatility in many mediums and a spontaneous creativity, produces art at once delicate, probing and of the highest quality.
“Whatever medium I’m working in is the yeast of the air,” says the Netherlands native who came to the United States in the late 1930s. “I don’t want to become set in preconceived ideas. I want to be open to the spontaneity and accidents of the medium. Very often the medium will tell me where to go.”
Nicolas is the fourth generation of master stained glass artists. Her father, Joep Nicolas, known as “the father of modern stained glass,” was also an accomplished painter, as is his daughter.
Nicolas studied extensively in Europe, and in the U.S. with painter Rufino Tamayo and sculptor Ossip Zadkine. Her works range from stage sets and 24-foot high stained glass windows for churches to terra cotta sculptures that can be held in one hand. All bear the unmistakable stamp of excellence.
Nicolas, also an accomplished costume designer and mosaicist, considers herself a keen observer of human nature. Her works delve into the passions, psychology and humor of the human condition, touching people with their universal appeal.
“Foremost, it is people I am concerned with, in whatever context,” says Nicolas, who makes her home in the small New Hampshire village of Mont Vernon. “I’m a storyteller, really, of mythologies,” whether self-created by contemporary subjects or found in tradition, from ancient Sumerian legends to tales of the Renaissance.
“I feel very much in tune with the history of civilization that is interwoven in this constant fabric which I am living and of which I am a part,” says the artist.
Nicolas calls her work “a mixture of reverence and irreverence,” a respect for life mingled with a questioning of its contradictions.
Ultimately, says the artist, “I would like to be remembered for my humanity.”