British painter, mainly of landscapes, harbour scenes, and figure compositions. He was born at Knowsley, near Liverpool, and briefly studied architecture at Liverpool University. In 1921 he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and subsequently travelled widely on the Continent. He was influenced by modern French art (Cocteau, Diaghilev, and Picasso were among his friends), but his work has an entirely personal lyrical freshness of vision, touched with what Gwen Raverat felicitously described as 'fashionable clumsiness'. In a remarkably short time he achieved a position of high regard in the art worlds of London and Paris, but he was emotionally unstable and his early death was probably suicide (he was killed by a train). After this he became something of a legend as a youthful genius cut off before his prime-the introduction to the catalogue of the 1978 Arts Council exhibition of his work (by William Mason) is typically rhapsodic in its praise: 'These two qualities-sincerity and naïveté-are those which seem to express most accurately the life and painting of Christopher Wood and indeed those were the words used by his friends in their many eulogies of him … His painting was ageless and young, and represented for his generation and for future generations all of the vigour, joy and exuberance of youth coupled with a freshness of vision and sense of colour as strong as if his life had been spent within a rainbow.' Much of his best work was done in Cornwall, where he and his friend Ben Nicholson discovered the naive painter Alfred Wallis in 1928. There are examples of Wood's work in the Tate Gallery, London.
A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art, 1999, © Ian Chilvers