1804 – 1886
The son of a bootmaker in Church Lane, Nicholl – whose elder brother William was also an artist – was an apprentice in F. D. Finlay’s printing shop and worked as a compositor on the newly established Northern Whig. In 1836 he became a founder member of the Belfast Association of Artists and exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin (which elected him as a member in 1848) and the Royal Academy, London, as well as in his native city. He contributed drawings to the Dublin Penny Journal, as well as to the series Views of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway and Picturesque sketches of some of the finest landscape and coastal scenery of Ireland.
An interesting departure was his appointment to teach landscape drawing, painting and design in Colombo, Ceylon. He subsequently provided illustrations for the then Colonial Secretary James Emerson Tennant’s descriptive volumes on the island.
Nicholl’s output includes views of Belfast and the Ulster scene in general, including McArt’s Fort and a series of popular watercolours of the Antrim coast. His colour palette tends to be limited to russets and browns, except in a few highly original works which feature dreamy background landscapes with banks of wild flowers, painted with almost hallucinating clarity, in the foreground.
The Ulster Museum has a large collection of his work, from all periods of his career.
Location of plaque
On the birth house in Church Lane, off High Street, Belfast.