LETTER : Through the eyes of innocence

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The Independent Online
TIM HILTON does Christopher Wood's work a disservice ("From the wilder shores of naivety", Sunday Review, 28 May).

Does it really matter that Wood may have been an asexual mother's boy, an opium eater, a manic depressive, a suicide and a late starter? Gaugin's life, for example, was equally flawed. He was an even later starter and died of syphilis through his own excesses, but he was still a great artist. And if Diaghilev's rejection of Wood's ballet designs was worth noting, why omit Picasso's vigorous defence of them?

Wood's aesthetics were far from "crummy". His ideas were not far removed from those of the Impressionists, who also wanted to see through the innocent eyes of a child. He (and they) understood that to do so, without rejecting the knowledge, skill and experience of maturity, requires a huge effort. The naivety of ignorance was not what he sought, though Alfred Wallis's genuinely naive work helped greatly to release his own creativity.

Many artists in the modern era, singly or in groups, have invented themes that might seem a little daft, but these helped them to justify their approach to new ideas. I frequently heard the Penwith painters expounding in The Sloop at St Ives during the 1940s, as no doubt Wood, Nicholson and others also used to do before the war. Yet between them they produced the liveliest, most creative art in Britain at that time.

As to Wood's technical resources, he was a first-rate draughtsman, and as a painter evolved a method perfectly suited to his purpose. Tricky it may have been, but it was direct and highly sensuous, and who this century was a better colourist?

David Goodman

Chichester, W Sussex