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Christopher Wood

English painter (1901 - 1930)

Christopher Wood was born in Knowsley in 1901. His father was a doctor on the Earl of Derby’s estate. After moving to London, he became friends with the wealthy, gay, art collector Alphonse Kahn. Kahn invited Wood to stay with him in Paris in 1921, so he could study drawing at the Académie Julian. He also introduced Wood into the bohemian Parisian art scene, where unusually for an Englishman at that time, he was instantly accepted. Wood soon met the Chilean, diplomat Antonio de Gandarillas (b.1887) who became his companion, lover and chief benefactor. This relationship survived all of his other affairs.

Gandarillas introduced Wood to Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) in 1924. Cocteau’s fluid linear drawing style exerted a strong influence on Wood’s work. Cocteau also encouraged Wood’s use of opium as a means of freeing creative expression. By 1925 Wood was moving in the highest artistic and social circles. He became romantically involved with fellow painter Meraud Guinness (1904 – 1993) but their planned elopement was thwarted by her wealthy family. Distraught, he travelled to St. Ives, where he was inspired by the self-taught painter Alfred Wallis (1855–1942) to paint simple scenes of working life from a different, more child-like perspective. In April 1929, Wood had his first, and only, solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Son, London.

On the brink of success, Wood grew more and more dependent on ‘dross’ (once-smoked opium). This more unpredictable form of opium-taking induced a dangerous paranoia. On 19 August 1930, Wood set off on the long journey to London to mount an exhibition of his work. According to the private detective’s report commissioned by his last lover, Frosca Munster (1896-1963), he appeared anxious and carried a loaded revolver in his pocket. Two days later he met with his mother and sister in Salisbury. He walked to the nearby train station and inexplicably threw himself under an incoming train, dying on impact.
  • Gender
    Male
  • Relationship
    Artist/maker
  • Nationality
    British: English
  • Born
    1901-04-07
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Merseyside: Knowsley
  • Died
    1930-08-21
  • Place of death
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Wiltshire: Salisbury
  • Cause of death
    Suicide
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