Photocopied correspondence from or concerning Christopher 'Kit' Wood, and eleven photographs of his paintings

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Kit Wood was a painter of seascapes, landscapes, imaginative and figure compositions. This collection of photocopied material consists largely of transcripts of letters from Kit to his mother, covering the important years of his artistic career from his move to Paris in 1921, until shortly before his death in 1930. The letters document Wood's close relationship with his mother, as well as the strains his choice of career and way of life placed on the relationship. Recurrent throughout the correspondence are descriptions of Wood's attitudes and feelings towards the art world and society, closely linked with his desire for success; the financial difficulties which beset him; and references to, or descriptions of, his work. The collection also includes copies of letters to Doodie Reitlinger from Wood and from Frosca Munster, and a few letters to his mother and to Frosca Munster from various correspondents after his death. There is also a manuscript copy of Cingria's eulogistic article about Wood, 'Ossianide', and a number of reproductions of Wood's work.

Administrative / Biographical History

Christopher Wood was born in Knowsley, near Liverpool on 7 April 1901, the son of Mrs Clare and Dr Lucius Wood, a GP. At fourteen, Wood began to draw during recuperation from septicaemia, and went on to study architecture briefly at Liverpool University, 1919-20. In London in 1920, the French collector Alphonse Kahn invited him to Paris, where Wood studied painting at the Academie Julian in 1921. He entered effortlessly into artistic circles, meeting Augustus John and the Chilean diplomat Antonio de Gandarillas, with whom he began to live. As well as providing financial support, Gandarillas introduced Wood to Picasso, Georges Auric and Jean Cocteau, and to the use of opium. Wood became a member of the London Group in 1926 and the Seven and Five Society between 1926-30. He exhibited with Ben and Winifred Nicholson at the Beaux Arts Gallery during April-May 1927, and became close to them personally and artistically. Winifred in particular was supportive in the aftermath of his failed elopement with the painter and heiress Meraud Guinness (subsequently Meraud Guevara). He painted with the Nicholsons at their home 'Banks Head' in Cumberland and in Cornwall in 1928. On a trip to St Ives, he and Ben Nicholson encountered the fisherman painter Alfred Wallis, whose work answered a shared interest in 'primitive' expression and helped Wood to establish a personal style. By this time he was in a close personal relationship with the Russian emigre, Frosca Munster, who accompanied him on his subsequent painting trips to Brittany.His solo exhibition at Tooth's Gallery in April 1929, was followed by an exhibition with Nicholson at the Galerie Bernheim in Paris, May 1930, in which Wood showed paintings made in Brittany in 1929. The results of a second stay in Brittany during June-July 1930, were intended to be shown at the Wertheim Gallery, London in October. Travelling with his paintings, Wood met his mother in Salisbury on 21 August 1930. Possibly believing himself pursued (an effect of withdrawal from opium), he threw himself under the London train and was killed.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged as follows: TGA 773/1-10 Letters from Kit to his mother, TGA 773/11-14 Letters to Mrs Wood from various correspondents, TGA 773/15-28 Letters to Doodie Reitlinger, TGA 773/29-42 Articles, drawing and reproductions.

Conditions Governing Access

Open. Access to all registered researchers

Other Finding Aids

Paper list available.

Custodial History

The material was collected by William Mason in the process of his research.

Related Material

Frosca Munster collection of papers relating to Kit Wood (TGA 723); Winifred Nicholson collection (TGA 8618); Ben Nicholson collection (TGA 8717). A sketchbook, photographs and correspondence regarding the commemorative exhibition are held at Cambridge University, Kettle's Yard Museum and Art Gallery; and further correspondence is held at the National Library of Wales Department of Manuscripts and Records.

Subjects