James O'Connor, right Edward Wolfe RA
Born in Johannesburg in 1897 Edward Wolfe travelled to London in 1916 where he was to spend much of the rest of his life.
In 1917 he was admitted to the Slade School of Fine Art where he met and started working with Roger Fry and the Omega Workshop, which was then at its creative peak.
In 1918 Wolfe's first exhibition with the London Group was held at the Mansard Gallery in Heal & Son on Tottenham Court Road. Impressed by his ability Roger Fry purchased some of Wolfe's drawings for his own collection.
During this period Wolfe became an intimate member of the dynamic and innovative
Introduced to the work of Matisse in 1919 Wolfe was one of the first British artists to become attracted to and influenced by Matisse and
Modigliani, and became known as 'England's Matisse'.
In 1922 Wolfe rented a studio in Montparnasse, through Duncan Grant he became friendly with the Modigliani Circle and the Russian artists
Larionov, Goncharova and the sculptor Zadkine.
David Buckman, the respected art historian and biographer recently wrote of Wolfe
"... (his) personality and his love of warm and exotic places brought to British twentieth century painting a welcome injection of a joyous and brilliant
For much of the last century, until his death in 1982, he created a body of work that won him much critical acclaim worldwide. Yet he was very much an
'outsider', indeed as John Russell Taylor stated in his authoritative monograph Edward Wolfe published in 1986
... Edward Wolfe was a maverick in British art'.
For this Wolfe would be denied full membership of the Royal Academy until 1973. He commented, on more than one occasion and with all the confidence of an artist happy with his own ability, that
'I am a great painter and they know it'.
Now, 36 years since the Arts Council retrospective, surely it is time for one of the country's leading public galleries to again undertake a definitive look at Wolfe's work. Our limited aims are twofold. Firstly to fulfil one of Wolfe's last wishes to have his own collection of drawings exhibited and disposed of as widely as possible through public exhibition.
Secondly to take time to remind ourselves (and hopefully to introduce a new audience) of the vibrant tones and colours of a Wolfe canvas. Or as Russell Taylor wrote
'Wolfe is certainly not
Cezanne, and not even Matisse - nor, admire them as he may, would he wish to be. In the end, a Wolfe is a Wolfe is a Wolfe: immediately recognisable , take it or leave it, and sublimely unconcerned which we finally do'.
to exhibition catalogue 'Wolfe RA' March 2003
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