England’s first painter. His vision is true, his grasp real, his power is life itself. Winifred Nicholson
This exhibition explores the work of the charismatic English artist Christopher Wood (1901-1930). Although he had no formal training, he went to Paris in 1921 with the ambition of becoming ‘the greatest painter that ever lived.’ Soon establishing himself as a prominent and popular figure amongst the artistic and social circles of the Parisian avant-garde in the 1920s, he mingled with aristocrats and won the admiration and affection of both Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. He was one of very few British artists to have a solo exhibition in Paris at that time, and was commissioned by Diaghilev to design the sets for his production of the ballet “Romeo and Juliet. In Britain, he was a member of the 7&5 Society and developed a close and mutually inspiring relationship with Ben and Winifred Nicholson. Wood died tragically aged only 29, leaving a remarkable body of work.
Woman with Fox, Wood
Paintings and drawings from the University of Cambridge and Kettle’s Yard collections, many of which are not normally on display, will be brought together with archival materials including the artist’s own set of playing cards to offer new insight into Wood’s life and work. For the first time in almost 30 years, Kettle’s Yard’s own Boy with Cat will be reunited with its sister painting Woman with Fox, which was given to the University of Essex by Jim Ede, founder of Kettle’s Yard, in 1964.
Boy with cat, 1926, Wood
It is likely that Christopher Wood painted ‘Boy with Cat’ in 1926, having come to know Jean Bourgoint and his sister Jeanne during the previous year. The Bourgoints were prominent figures in the Parisian circle of poet Jean Cocteau, and were said to be the models for his novel of sibling love and destruction Les Enfants Terribles. Wood formed a special attachment to Jeanne, with whom he had a brief and tempestuous relationship and whom he considered “the ideal female model for me”.
A new publication exploring the relationship between Wood and Kettle’s Yard will accompany the exhibition.
6 July – 1 September 2013
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge