DAVID FORRESTER WILSON, R.S.A.
(Glasgow 1873 - 1950 Islay)
Signed lower left: D. Forrester Wilson
Pencil and gouache on paper laid on board
18 ½ x 14 inches (47 x 35.5 cm)
Private collection, United Kingdom.
Born in Glasgow, David Forrester Wilson was the son of lithographer John Wilson. He did not initially pursue a career in painting, but rather held a reputable position in the business firm of Messrs. John Blair & Co. until 1892. Wilson took up studies at the Glasgow School of Art under the Belgian Symbolist painter John Delville (1867-1953) from 1899 until 1906. He was awarded a number of scholarships, which allowed him to travel throughout Europe and experience first-hand the vibrant and shifting artistic movements in Belgium, France, Italy and Paris at the turn of the 20th century. He went on to serve on the faculty at the Glasgow School of Art, eventually rising to serve as head of the Department of Drawing and Painting between 1932 and 1938.
The current work Wind is reflective of Wilson’s aptitude in decorative portraiture. Having studied under Delville, the influence of Joséphin Péladan’s Salon de la Rose + Croix would have been inescapable. The woman’s swirling red hair immediately evokes the commonly depicted femme fatale in Pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist paintings. She stares off into the distance, disconnected, as if in a trance or state of fatigue. Her wildly swirling hair is animated with a life force all its own. She is elemental, merging with the clouds and the foliage around her. Is she clutching her drapery in defense of the wind, or is she wind itself?
Wilson created a large-scale painting titled The Wind, which he exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute in 1919. The work fetched a then outstanding price of £300, expensive for both the artist and similar works displayed at the time. It is certainly possible that this gouache was created in preparation for the large canvas, which also depicts a red-haired woman in a field, tousled by the wind and gazing off into the distance (see illustration). The Wind eventually joined the collection of Andy Warhol, an avid collector of works by Wilson and other Pre-Raphaelite painters. It sold for well above its estimate in Warhol’s estate sale, held by Sotheby’s in April 1988 (lot 2812).