Christopher Wood: Sophisticated Primitive

‘A rhythmic energy pulses through these pictures.’ Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times

Christopher Wood: Sophisticated Primitive has opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. This major summer exhibition is the first in 35 years to provide a comprehensive overview of the career of the precocious young British artist Christopher Wood who held an important position in the British art world during the 1920s.

Lund Humphries, in association with the Gallery has published the the first fully illustrated publication on Christopher Wood. Including over 150 images, it provides extensive visual analysis of individual paintings, set designs and drawings created by Wood in both Britain and France, bringing fresh perspective to his unique artistic development on both sides of the Channel. It celebrates the magnitude of Wood’s achievement during the ten years before his untimely death in 1930, aged just 29.

Wood’s short career drew on a multitude of influences, all of which contributed to the development of his faux-naïve style. Along with his close colleagues, Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Wood developed a self-consciously unsophisticated style inspired in part by the untrained Cornish artist Alfred Wallis. However his understanding of naïve art was also uniquely influenced by his early exposure to the work of modernists in France such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh, who all drew upon Non-Western art and so-called ‘primitive’ cultures. His addiction to opium, encouraged by his friendship with the writer and artist Jean Cocteau doubtlessly, fed into the direct and visionary quality of his later paintings.

His oscillation between diverse artistic reference points is borne out in Katy Norris’ fascinating narrative that analyses Wood’s engagement with the Parisian avant-garde on the one hand and the attraction of the simpler life he encountered in Cornwall, Cumbria and Brittany on the other. The emotional turmoil of his final years underlines the tensions between the two worlds that Wood inhabited and which he was ultimately was unable to reconcile.

Here we share a selection of works included in the book:

Lemons in a Blue Basket, 1922 (oil on canvas) Christopher Wood, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK; Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council (1985)


The Card Players, 1922, Christopher Wood, Oil on board, Michael and Ruth West

The Bather, c.1925-6, Christopher Wood, Oil on canvas, Jerwood Gallery

The Manicure (Portrait of Frosca Munster), 1929, Christopher Wood, Oil on canvas, Bradford Museums and Galleries

Porthmeor Beach, 1928, Christopher Wood, Oil on canvas, Private Collection

Tréboul, the Blue Sea, 1930, Christopher Wood, Oil on canvas, Private Collection



Christopher Wood by Katy Norris (£40 Hardback) is available now from our website, with free UK postage.

Christopher Wood: Sophisticated Primitive is on display at Pallant House Gallery until 2 October 2016.