|Christopher Wood, Breton Woman at Prayer, 1930 (Southampton City AG)|
|Christopher Wood, Church at Treboul, 1930 (Tate)|
|Cedric Morris, Breton Landscape, 1927 (Kirklees Museums and Galleries)|
When Christopher Wood died he was about two years into his career as a painter of vision. Two years! Between 1928 and 1930 he painted like a man possessed, producing the famous pictures of Cornish fishing boats and Breton churches, and those other strange coastal paintings of sleeping sailors and sunbathers and drying fishing nets; there were other, more disturbing pictures too, such as 'The Yellow Man', which I think he painted in Paris.
|Christopher Wood, The Yellow Man|
Unfortunately his life story has become tangled up with that of Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis, so that we tend to see him through the filter of that 1928 meeting in St Ives and dwell on questions of influence that detract from the real story. He may have borrowed Wallis's dark dark seas (the naive style he had already), but what he found in the Cornish and Breton fishing villages was something deeper. Sometimes he made his thoughts and feelings visible - in the skeletal timbers of a half-built boat, for instance - but on other occasions they are more elusive. In one picture a woman is mending a fishing net; another shows a woman praying in a simple church. The style is a bit heavy-handed, even clumsy (Morris was more technically skilled), yet there is in these pictures sadness and beauty, serenity and strangeness.
|Christopher Wood, Pony and Trap, 1930|
'Cedric Morris and Christopher Wood: a Forgotten Friendship' is at the Norwich Castle Museum until New Year's Eve, before touring to the Mascalls Gallery and the Falmouth Art Gallery. It is a Mascalls Gallery touring show, curated by Nathaniel Hepburn.