To the October Gallery last Friday to see the exhibition of art by Gerald Wilde (1905-1986), a singular painter, once again chronicled by Dan Farson (see earlier posts) in his Soho books. While he was reported to lead a bohemian and bibulous life at that time, he was not, as if often reported, the real life person on which the artist character Gulley Jimson was based in Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth (1944) (John Bratby, who lived in Hastings for many years, did the paintings for the film version starring Alec Guinness released in 1956).
Wilde painted in a swirling abstract style – much of his earlier work perished in the Blitz and he seems to have stopped painting for a period in the 60s.
His friend the art critic David Sylvester wrote:
'If it makes little difference to the effect of a painting by Wilde whether it is more or less figurative, this is because the most eloquent thing about his paintings is their particular obsessive rhythm. It is a turbulent, convulsive, vertiginous rhythm, verging on chaos, teetering on the very edge of it ... rhythms are thrown together and somehow held in balance: colliding they check and deflect movement, so that in the end the tempo of these frenzied works is slow and halting. The groups of half-formed figures among buildings, the intricate webs of half-remembered images of the city, twist and turn passionately but without exuberance, grindingly, elegiacally.'
It was interesting to discover that in his final years, from the early 1970s, he lived at Sherborne House in Gloucestershire, home of the Academy for Continuous Education founded by John Godolphin Bennett (1897-1974), a place also attended at that time, of course, during his post-King Crimson sabbatical, by one Robert Fripp.