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 Charles King Wood  (1869 - 1942)

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Lived/Active: New Jersey      Known for: landscape-coastal painting

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Ad Code: 4
Charles King Wood
from Auction House Records.
Sonnige Altstadtgasse
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following are excerpts from letters by Miss Kathleen Crowe (journalist for the Times of Malta), who met Cavaliere Charles King Wood on a cruise around the Mediterranean in June of 1936(he was traveling from Taormino to Monte Carlo). The letters are in possession of her daughter, Madame Virginia Fettarappa, of Switzerland:

"I have met an American on board on his way to Monte Carlo.  He has bought a Convent in Taormina 20 years ago and still lives there.  He has a title of Cavaliere which I believe he must have got from the Italian Government.  Anyway he has invited Luis (her fiancé) and me to go and stay there for a week any time…  We have a mutual  acquaintance in Sir Harry and Lady Luke (Governor of Malta)"
(Letter Kathleen Robinson to her parents. 2nd June, 1936.)

"…the American painter I told you about, who joined us again in  Genoa.  He's rather a dear old thing, but I see very little of him.  Did I tell you that he lived in a convent in Taormina?  I've heard more about him since then - that he is an artist, for instance.  …His great friend in Taormina is the Duke of Brontë … he has some very interesting tales to tell about when he met King George V and Queen Mary when they visited Taormina after the King's illness and the King of Italy who called on him - he has "open house" you see, so everyone  who goes there, calls.  The very peculiar Infante of Spain went there and behaved more or less like an imbecile, I gather.  He is very keen for me and Luis to spend a few days there because he has taken a  liking to me and he loves throwing dinner parties.  But since he has told me about the ghosts which haunt the place I am not so sure.  There is supposed to be a blue nun whose spirit appears.  He has  never seen it himself, but he sees many other whom he finds amusing.  He is a placid old gentleman of about 60 not unlike Mr. Ohly (a German artist living in London) to look at." (Letter Kathleen Robinson to her parents, 21st June 1936)

In September of that year she and her husband (Lieut. Luis Geoffrey  Robinson) spent their honeymoon in Taormina, and dined with the Cavaliere in the convent he had bought in Taormina.  He asked them to stay with him, and this they later did.  "He really is a most  charming gentleman," she wrote. "He gave us his blessing in the good old-fashioned way and threw a party for us as promised.  Not content  with that he gave us a beautiful painting (water colour) of the cloister in his convent for a wedding present.  Actually he gave us about 30 to choose from, and we chose the cloister, which one would never tire of.  After that he dined with us once at the hotel, and we saw him again on the beach, where he introduced us to more of his eminent friends - and delightful they were too - and took us out to tea."
(Letter Kathleen Robinson to her parents, 5th October 1936.)

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted by Catherine Long, the artist's grand-niece.
Born on January 1, 1869, in Trenton, New Jersey, he died on April 4, 1942, in Taormina, Sicily.  He is buried in the English portion of cemetery in Taormina. The inscription on his tombstone reads "He loved Italy with all his heart".
"He was self-taught. As a youth his ambition was to become an artist.  In 1894 he went to France where he studied and painted until 1896, when he was appointed Special Field Agent for Miss. Clara Barton, President of the American Red Cross during the Armenian Massacre.
In 1899 he lived in Venice where he studied for five years.  One day he decided to visit Taormina, a beautiful winter resort, termed the "Garden Spot of Sicily".  He intended remaining a few days, but instead purchased a centuries old convent, converted it into a charming home and remained there the rest of his life.  Stone walls and walks extended from the 36 room rambling structure down to the Mediterranean and off in the distance snow covered Mt. Etna could be seen.  There he set up his studio and eventually became one of Europe's outstanding American water colorists."
(Typewritten note by my grandmother, Charles' sister)
On a personal note: 3 years ago my husband and I took my father back to Taormina. His first visit to see his uncle was 1926. He again visited him in 1937. We were able to find some people who remembered Uncle Charles and told us the following.
He was well known for his parties, which were lavish and delightful. Most always they were costume affairs. He always had his house open to anyone who might want a place to stay. He kept his kitchen stocked and anyone could come in and cook, or partake in any way they desired. He had many very close friends in Taormina and loved it so very much.

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