Recently discovered works by John Wilde on display
By Sarah Hauer, December 12, 2016
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This summer as a grandchild prepared to move into Wilde's former home in Cooksville, she found paintings in a corner.
"We knew the drawings existed of a lot of these because they were in his studio drawers," said Linda Sanduski, director of artists' estates at the Tory Folliard Gallery. "We had no idea where the painting was or if it ever existed."
One sketch showed a woman reclining on a beach next to a skeleton. Wilde had drawn a grid and it appeared the artist planned to create a full painting. With this summer's finding, the mystery was solved.
"To find this was just magical," Sanduski said about the large painting now hanging in the gallery.
"To the best of our knowledge they have not been seen," she said. Sanduski imagines the works have been hidden away for four decades.
A leader in the American Surrealism movement called Magic Realism, Wilde died in 2006 at age 86. The works on display at Tory Folliard show Wilde's early paintings and drawings from the 1940s and '50s, drawn from Wilde's personal collection.
"These are the works John loved," she said.
After his wife passed, the children decided to have the Tory Folliard Gallery take on the estate. The gallery will continue to show the estate's collection in subsequent shows. Wilde was represented by Tory Folliard for more than 20 years.
A lot of the concepts in these early drawings and sketches became repeated elements in paintings over his career. For instance, in his 1942 graphite on paper drawing "Study for a Landscape," Wilde drew a face into the horizon line as he did in some later works.
Wilde was born in Milwaukee but he lived most of his life near Madison. He studied art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning bachelor and master's degrees from the institution. He taught studio art courses there from 1948 until retiring in 1982.
Sanduski would like to see some of the works, like his self-portrait, "Myself as a Reader," acquired by museum collections. She said there has already been interest. Wilde's work is featured in the collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Smithsonian American Art Mususem and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.