Christopher Wood

(1901 - 1930)

Christopher, also known as ‘Kit’, Wood was born in Knowsley, near Liverpool on 7 April 1901. Educated at Marlborough College, he initially studied architecture and medicine at Liverpool University before deciding to become a painter with the encouragement of Augustus John, who was a teacher at the University.

In 1920 Wood moved to London where he met the influential French art collector Alphonse Kahn, who invited him to Paris where he enrolled at the Académie Julian and Grand Chaumiere. A charming and flamboyant personality, Wood soon gained access to the fashionable artistic circles, where he met the Chilean diplomat Antonio de Gandarillas, and the two began to live together. As well as providing financial support, Gandarillas introduced Wood to Picasso, Georges Auric and Jean Cocteau, who were to have a profound influence on the young artist. Wood also began smoking opium, a habit that grew into an addiction by 1930.

Between 1922 and 1924 Wood travelled to North Africa and around Europe, during which time he also began to establish himself in Britain. In 1926 he joined the London Group and Seven & Five Society, where he met Ben and Winifred Nicholson, becoming close to them both personally and artistically. Their friendship proved a steadying influence, particularly after his failed elopement with the painter and heiress Meraud Guinness. In 1927 he exhibited with them at the Beaux Arts Gallery and the following year he painted with them in Cumberland and Cornwall. During one trip to St. Ives with Ben Nicholson, he encountered the fisherman painter Alfred Wallis, whose naïve style was to influence Wood’s own stylistic development.

In April 1929 Wood held a solo exhibition at Tooth's Gallery in London, where he met gallery owner Lucy Wertheim who soon became one of his biggest patrons. The following year he exhibited with Ben Nicholson at the Galerie Bernheim, Paris, in which he showed his paintings made on several trips to Brittany in 1929. The results of a second stay in Brittany in June-July 1930 were due to be exhibited at the Wertheim Gallery in London in October; however, travelling with his paintings, Wood met his mother in Salisbury in August 1930 and, shortly after leaving her, threw himself under the London train. His death was often subsequently described as accidental; however, he is believed to have been suffering from paranoia, possibly as a result of withdrawal effects from his opium addition.

Posthumous exhibitions were held at the Wertheim Gallery in 1931 and the Lefevre Galleries the following year. In 1938 Wood's paintings were included in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale and in the same year a major retrospective was held by the Redfern Gallery at the New Burlington Galleries.

His works can be found in museums in: Washington D.C., Sydney, Wellington New Zealand, London, Scotland, Wales, Bristol, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester, Southampton, Oxford, Swindon among others.