(1919 - 2006)
John Henry Wilde was active/lived in Wisconsin. John Wilde is known for paintings of surreal fanciful images, illustration.
Biography from the Archives of askART
Part of the Wisconsin Surrealist movement in the 1930s and 40s, John
Wilde was a Surrealist painter with focus on life and death through grotesque, doll-like
people in "otherworldly situations". Many of his paintings have old
bones, mutated female creatures, and dream-like landscapes, and
frequently he painted himself into his work. He also did detailed, colorful and eerily glowing still lifes.
Biography from Spanierman Gallery
His association with Surrealism began when he was a student at the
University of Wisconsin and became a friend of Marshall Glasier, that
Wisconsin Surrealist leader and his art teacher. He
joined Glasier at salons at his home where artists gathered to discuss
European modernism and other avant-garde topics. Wilde's painting
was also linked to Magic Realism and its New York exponents Paul Cadmus
and George Tooker.
had a six-decade career as a painter and with the exception of serving
in the Army during World War II, lived his entire life in
Wisconsin. He was born in Milwaukee and studied art at the
University of Wisconsin with Glasier and with James Watrous from whom
he learned classical
techniques of drawing and painting. From 1942 to 1946, Wilde was
a military artist, doing drawings for venereal disease prevention and
maps and terrain models for intelligence. After the war, he
returned to Wisconsin where he earned a Master's Degree and wrote a
thesis on Max Ernst. From 1948 to his retirement in 1982, he gave
art lessons from his studio.
In 2000, the Milwaukee Art Center included his painting in an
exhibition titled "Surreal Wisconsin,"and his work was featured in
"Surrealism USA", a 2005 traveling exhibition of the National Academy
Ken Johnson, "John Wilde, 86, Painter of Surreal Comic Images", The New York Times, 3/18/2006, Obituaries, A28
Wilde, creator of very detailed, enigmatic and fantastic paintings, was
born in Milwaukee in 1919. A fourth-generation Wisconsinite, he studied
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After serving in World War II,
he pursued graduate studies in art history before returning to fine
art. In 1948, he joined Madison's art department and, for the next
thirty-four years, taught drawing, retiring in 1982 as a professor
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Wilde (pronounced WILL-dee) paints idiosyncratic
subjects with trompe l'oeil artifice, putting him in the stylistic
company of a number of post-World War II American artists like Paul
Cadmus, Jared French, Henry Koerner, Bernard Perlin, Charles Rain,
Priscilla Roberts, Honore Sharrer and George Tooker who painted a
version of Surrealism that came to be called Magic Realism by Alfred
Barr in 1942, then curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York
Coming Into My Place is an example of Wilde's artistic
point of view. It depicts animals and reptiles running madly around a
ranch-style house with a naked woman straddling the roof.
clearly expressing the condition of his own inner life, Wilde's
paintings of blue vegetables, orgiastic rites and howling animals may
also tap the Wisconsin portrayed in Michael Lesy's photo-book, Wisconsin Death Trip (1973), and Mark Borchardt's 1999 film, American Movie. Wilde's world re-creates, and attempts to deal with,
the disturbances of societal foundations (and his own psyche) so
prevalent, disconcerting and publicized in modern times.
meticulous drawings recall the concise graphic sensibility of
Renaissance artists like Antonio Pisanello, Albrecht Durer and Hans
Holbein. His miniatures and larger-scale oils also relate to Flemish,
German and Italian Renaissance painters, including Hieronymus Bosch,
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Matthias Grunewald, Simone Martini and Fra
Ultimately, John Wilde's work centers on his own
imagination and self-scrutiny. In 1998, he remarked, "My main concern
is simply myself: I am the actor on the stage being depicted. Most of
my painting is scene painting. I paint a proscenium arch and depict
activities happening on that stage."
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