One of New Zealand's leading portrait and landscape painters, Archibald Nicoll was born in Christchurch and studied at the Canterbury School of Art under Sydney Lough Thompson.
In 1908 he was appointed teacher at the Elam School of Arts in Auckland and in 1910 left for Europe. He studied at the Westminster School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art and later at the Scottish Academy School of Art. He exhibited with major exhibitions in Scotland and at the Royal Academy.
In 1914 he returned to New Zealand to join the Expeditionary Forces and after the War had a period in Wellington before being appointed Director of the Canterbury College School of Art in 1920.
He painted many portraits of leading New Zealanders and exhibited in the major New Zealand and Australian Art Society. After 1928 he gave his entire time to his art and had worked included in the Centennial Exhibition in Wellington in 1940.
Archibald Nicoll is represented in all the major New Zealand Galleries, including the Auckland City Art Gallery and the National Gallery.