Lot 7
  • 7

Christopher Wood

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
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  • Christopher Wood
  • Anemones in a Glass Jar
  • pencil and oil on canvas
  • 42 by 31.5cm.; 16½ by 12½in.
  • Executed in 1925.


Redfern Gallery, London
Robertson and Bruce, Dundee
Sale, Christie's London, 29th October 1971, lot 123
Crane Kalman Gallery, London, where acquired by Shaw Kennedy in December 1972
Crane Kalman Gallery, London, where acquired by the present owner in May 1984


London, Redfern Gallery, Christopher Wood Memorial Exhibition, March 1936, cat. no.14;
London, New Burlington Galleries, Christopher Wood, 3rd March - 2nd April 1938, cat. no.73;
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, A Selection of British Paintings, 5th December 1972 - 20th January 1973, cat. no.16 (as Anemones).


Eric Newton, Christopher Wood, Redfern Gallery, London, 1938, cat. no.106.


Original canvas. The canvas has a narrow strip line at the extreme edges, which has been applied to ensure the stability of the canvas on the stretcher. There is a possible tiny fleck of loss to the bottom left of the vase, and there are one or two very minor fine lines of craquelure, including to the pink flower at the upper right. There is some very minor frame abrasion to the left part of the extreme lower edge and to the lower half of the extreme right edge, only visible upon extremely close inspection. There is some light surface dirt to the work. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in excellent overall condition, with strong passages of impasto. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals some flecks of retouching predominantly to the extreme left, lower and right edges, with one or two further flecks to the composition, which have been sensitively executed. The work is presented in a gilt carved wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Robert Upstone, who is preparing the forthcoming Christopher Wood catalogue raisonné, for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work.

Christopher Wood first visited Paris in March 1921, staying initially with the wealthy collector Alphonse Kahn for several weeks, who introduced him to the city’s cultural and artistic attractions. Enamoured with this exciting new city, he moved to Paris the following month, commencing the search for rooms and a studio of his own. Arriving as an untutored artist, he soon enrolled in the Academy Julien, and met Cocteau (with whom he later shared a studio), Picasso, and other artistic luminaries of the time, encountering too the fashionable art of Cézanne, Matisse and Modigliani. It was an enthralling experience for the young Wood, and in October 1921, eight months after he had first arrived in Paris, he wrote to his mother full of enthusiasm: ‘Dearest Mother, you ask me what I am going to do: I have decided to try and be the best painter that has ever lived’ (the Artist, quoted in Richard Ingleby, Christopher Wood: An English Painter, Allison & Busby, London, 1995, p.13).

The genre of the still life is one which runs throughout Wood’s oeuvre, and his flower paintings are amongst the best-known and most sought-after of his output. The present work was painted in 1925, at which time Wood occupied a studio in Montmartre, and his work of the time demonstrates a very Continental influence. In 1926, Wood was to meet Ben and Winifred Nicholson for the first time, and Wood’s subsequent work bears a significant debt to Winifred’s flower paintings in particular - indeed she was to send him bunches of fresh spring flowers to paint in the post - but prior to this, certainly in terms of his floral still lives, it was to Vincent van Gogh that he looked perhaps most intently. He encountered the Dutch master’s work in Paris, and not only admired his painting but also his passion and dedication to his art. Having avidly read the painter’s letters to his bother Theo, Wood wrote to his mother describing van Gogh as ‘such a wonderful man. I have read all his memoirs and letters…he must have had such a beautiful mind’, later suggesting a visit to Arles to see where ‘van Gogh, my van Gogh, painted his best pictures’ (the Artist, quoted in ibid., pp.267-8). 

Wood readily absorbed the lessons of other painters who were masters of certain subjects - Utrillo for a Parisian street scene, or Modigliani for a portrait, for example – drawing on elements of these artists’ style, yet always one step ahead of direct imitation, and aiming more towards the development of his own technique. Anemones in a Glass Jar is a perfect example of Wood absorbing elements of Van Gogh’s work, yet retaining a strong sense of his own personal style. In subject, Wood’s anemones parallel Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers (1888, National Gallery, London) or Irises (1890, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a simple composition of flowers in a jar the sole focus of the work. Whilst Wood’s palette is much more muted than Van Gogh’s highly saturated hues - presenting instead a restrained, even typically ‘English’ palette - these flowers are rendered with all the intensity and psychological drama that Van Gogh is so renowned for. The flowers fill the composition, bursting with life, and Wood captures every snaking stem and softly curling leaf with great sensitivity. Wood further enlivens the work by tipping the jar forward into the viewer’s space, and surrounding the blooms with a swirling array of pale blue-green brushstrokes, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s backgrounds filled with thick whorls of impasto. The result is a subtle, sophisticated work, with a depth and vivacity which belies the supposed ‘stillness’ of its subject.