Born in 1962 Nicholas Jolly initially studied Fine Art at Gloucestershire College of Art. Shortly after graduating, a self portrait was accepted for the John Player Portrait Awards at National Portrait Gallery in London, where it was bought by the art critic Brian Sewell. This was to start a series of events that culminated in a widely publicized exhibition of Ten Young Painters of Promise, 1995.
Encouraged by his early success, Jolly entered a three-year post-graduate diploma course at the Royal Academy Schools, London, where he developed a a growing affinity with a new generation of figurative painting coming out of Germany and Scotland. On graduating he began to exhibit frequently in London. A major exhibition of his work held at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in 1990, and in the following year his first solo exhibition was held at the Paton Gallery, London, where his work was bought for the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
In 1994 Jolly spent most of the year working in Connecticut, USA. On his return to London he began to exhibit at Beaux Art, London. Influenced by his time in the USA he developed an interest in vintage American magazines and their British 1950’s counterparts, such as Picture Post; portraying the formalized poses and contrived mannerisms of 1950’s advertising.