Thursday, 24 March 2016

Christopher 'Kit' Wood-A Life Wasted? Or An Inspiration To Others?

Christopher “Kit” Wood. Left Liverpool at the age of 19 and proclaimed that he would become the greatest painter the world had ever seen. He had £14 in his pocket.
He was born in Huyton, then in the countryside near Liverpool.
He was sent to boarding school in Malvern at an early age.
He had been interested in medicine and architecture at Liverpool University where he met the painter Augustus John who was then teaching there.
He arrived in Paris in March 1921 at the invitation of the collector Alphonse Kahn.
There he studied at the Academie Julian where he met many of the worlds soon to be famous painters.
He was bisexual.
Paris was the modern city and the capital of art.
Rules had been broken and the intellectual way of painting had arrived decades earlier. 
'Kit' got some bad habits, such as Opium which may have been introduced to him by his rich Playboy lover, Antonio de Gandarillas
His addiction would greatly hinder him.
“My brain is working too hard, he said, and I don't know where the end will come, I work so hard and produce nothing whatsoever to satisfy me”
In Feb 1927 none other than Picasso recommended that Kit design the set for Serg Dagliev's Romeo and Juliet at Theatre Du Chatelet.
It was a disaster. As Dagliev had a blazing row with him and he was sacked.
In 1927 his plans to elope and marry heiress Meraud Guinness were frustrated by her parents whereupon he required emotional support from Winifred Nicholson.

Despondent but with fresh ideas swimming around in his head he headed for Cornwall. His mother was Cornish.
 In the summer of 1928 Kit joined Ben Nicholson on Sunday 26th August for a sketching trip to St Ives.
 He had high hopes on the English Riviera. 
They headed for Porthmeor beach and painted.
After a successful day spent painting they packed up and set for home

Then something happened that would change both their lives 
There in a small cottage with an open door they both peered in and in a room full of paintings.

 They had discovered the work of Alfred Wallis. 

The naivety was an inspiration and Kit stayed on for the autumn, renting a place closed to Wallis.

Nicholson went back to London to spread the word of the encounter as if the Messiah had arrived. 
“If I am here long enough, he said I am going to paint good things”. Kit said.

He began to paint scenes inspired by the Cornish Coast with its fresh light.
Had he finally found the inspiration he desired. Cocteau who said he was an exceptional painter, now meant nothing to him.
He started painting inspired by Wallis who he visited every day, but the hallucinogenic addiction that he had to Opium was preying on him.
He became paranoid and began to lose his mind painting some sinister scenes in what would be some of his last works.
Wallis opened up a spirit in him and his work was beginning to bear fruit. 
He felt as if he belonged to the light of the coast of St Ives.

Wallis became a cult recording the decline of the fishing industry in his own silly way that seems to have conjured up dreamlike sequences for aspiring artists who now flocked there. Wallis painted on anything he could find and he was free not having had any training. 
He was poor and in 1890 after chasing shoals of fish out in the deep sea. He painted from memory and his perspective is very strange indeed, but it was this charming naivety that the new modern artists adored.
Kits work then took on a paranoid sense of his own gloom laden opium twisted senses.
In 1929 he held a solo exhibition at Tooths Gallery in Bond Street.
 He met Lucy Wertheim there, she would become a supporter of his.
"I know that my future as a painter from now on will be bound up with your own, and I shall become great through you!" He would say to her.
In May 1930 he had a largely unsuccessful exhibition with Nicholson in Paris. In June and July he made a second trip to Brittany to create new work.
 Later in July Lucy travelled to meet Kit in Paris, to choose the paintings for a one-man show that would be the opening exhibition at her new Wertheim Gallery in October.
While discussing the exhibition over lunch the day after her arrival, Wood issued her with an ultimatum: "'I want you to promise to guarantee me twelve hundred pounds a year from the time of my exhibition, one hundred pounds a month being the least I can live on. If I can't have this sum I've made up my mind to shoot myself'".
 When she complained, he begged her forgiveness, and they went to review the paintings again.

On 21st august 1930 Kit met his mother for Lunch in Salisbury and then through himself under a train. He was 29.
This was reported as an accident.
Following his death the show was cancelled; it was eventually staged as a memorial show at a different gallery in 1931.
He was buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church in Broad Chalke.
 His gravestone was carved by the sculptor Eric Gill.

Alfred Wallis.
An ex fisherman he retired from the sea in 1890 and opened a marine supply store.
When his wife died in the 1920's he began to paint.
 Little did he know that his melancholy would inspire a generation.
He was naïve alright and poor he painted on anything he could get his hands on.
He had no idea about perspective and his subliminal thoughts began to show through and inspire others. He would say that he painted out of his mind as it was.
Wallis was sent to a madhouse as he was chased by ghosts. He died a celebrity amongst the artists and he was entombed by Bernard Leach who erected his epitaph.
The art community came to pay its respects.

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