Christopher Wood British, 1901-1930

Born at Knowsley, Lancashire, Wood suffered an attack of polio at the age of fourteen and was incapacitated for three years. After studying architecture briefly at Liverpool University, he went to London in 1920 and there won the admiration of Augustus John, who saw his sketches at a casual meeting in the Café Royal. In 1921 he went to Paris on the invitation of Alphonse Kahn and took up the study of painting seriously at the Académie Julian and then at the Grande Chaumiere. In a remarkably brief period of time he won the friendship and regard of many of the Paris avant-garde, including Picasso and Jean Cocteau (who wrote the introduction to the catalogue of his first London exhibition), so that, in the words of John Rothenstein, he enjoyed a position in the Paris art world 'approached by no English artist of his generation and by very few others'. He had his first London exhibition at the Beaux-Arts Gallery together with Ben Nicholson in 1927. He worked with the Nicholsons in Cornwall, 1926-8, and with them 'discovered' the primitive painter Alfred Wallis. He travelled very widely both on the Continent and in England. In August 1930 he killed himself by jumping in front of a train at Salisbury station. Since his death he has become something of a legend as the youthful genius cut off before his prime. A memorial volume Christopher Wood was published by the Redfern Gallery in 1959 and a major biography by Richard Ingleby was published in 1995.