John Wilde (1919-2006; pronounced “WILL-dee”) is regarded as one of the major figures of Wisconsin art. Wilde’s works are found in prestigious institutions across the nation and his surreal influence lives on in the work of contemporary heavies such as Fred Stonehouse.
“John Wilde: The Early Works,” Nov. 19 through Dec. 31 at the Tory Folliard Gallery, presents a cache of recently discovered works from the 1940s and 1950s. The artist’s niece discovered the paintings and drawings after the death of Wilde’s widow in 2015. The exhibition reunites preparatory drawings with the hitherto unseen finished canvasses. While the fumbling fingers of adolescence often lead artists to commit their juvenilia to the flames, Wilde’s early efforts reveal an artist assured in style and technique from a young age. “This wasn’t just talent and training,” recalled artist Sylvia Fein, who met Wilde when both were undergraduates at UW-Madison, “There was a supernatural happening…constantly generating and cranking out [work] with no apparent struggle or missteps.”
Robert Cozzolino, the leading Wilde scholar and author of the exhibition catalogue, will give a talk at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 during the opening reception.