Our cover this month, Girls by the Sea by Christopher Wood, sold for GBP 52,500 at Christie’s Modern British Art Day Sale on June 18, 2019 in London. A promising young artist, Wood sadly cut his career short, committing suicide at just 29 years old. Despite this tragedy and a career overshadowed by his party-going ways, he left a lasting impression through his paintings. Various works by Wood have come to auction over the past few years, including the one featured on this month’s cover.
After being encouraged by Welsh artist Augustus John to leave behind his studies of medicine and architecture at Liverpool University to pursue painting, Wood moved to Paris to study at Académie Julian. It was in Paris that he met the Chilean diplomat Antonia de Gandarillas, who introduced him to some of the big names such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Auric and Jean Cocteau. Unfortunately, Gandarillas also introduced Wood to the use of opium. Though the hallucinogenic drug is credited with inspiring some of Wood’s best surrealist works, it ultimately cost him his life. It’s said that withdrawal symptoms that caused Wood deep paranoia, along with the onset of financial problems, ultimately led him to jump in front of a train and end his life during a trip to Salisbury, England to visit his mother and sister.
Aside from his praised surrealist works, Wood also developed a penchant for the sea during his last years, crediting Cornish fisherman and untrained artist Alfred Wallis for the inspiration. These later works depicted beach and boat scenes in his characteristic naïve style, which were said to be admired by Picasso, and which are largely regarded as the high point of his career, leaving many to speculate whether there could have been even better works to come had he lived.