The Scottish artist whose work was collected by Andy Warhol
Arms crossed and holding bread next to a sideboard and his plush Great Dane Cecil, “Andy Warhol In His ‘Factory'” by Horst P. Horst, is one of the great portraits of the iconic visual artist American.
Behind Warhol in the photo, hanging in his wood-paneled conference room at his famous New York studio, is the stunning Pre-Raphaelite work “The Wind” by Scottish artist David Forrester Wilson.
The son of a lithographer, Wilson was born in 1873 in Glasgow and was educated at a private seminary before transferring to Gorbals Public School. He continued his studies at the Glasgow School of Art from 1892-3 and 1899-1906 under Belgium’s leading symbolist painter, Jean Delville, becoming director of drawing and painting in 1932, a position he held until in 1938 before his death. in 1950.
While the public prominence of Wilson’s Scots and his works today seems to have waned, his works are in some of the most prestigious collections in the world.
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Fine art specialist Luke Price works at Chiswick Auctions, where Wilson’s ‘Vanity’ sold in 2019 for just under £25,000, the most sought after for one of the Glasgow artist’s paintings since 1998.
Speaking to the Herald about Wilson, Mr Price said: ‘His quality of treatment mixed with early 20th century Glasgow modernism makes his 1920s works his most sought after, as a university professor I foresee that this affected his studio release, and makes this period of work rare. As such, his works at auction were rare at this time but highly admired and could fetch substantial sums.
“David Forrester Wilson’s early 20th century works are among his most important, he was part of a wonderful melting pot of influences in Glasgow during this period. His style is based on the classical training he received at the Glasgow School of Arts from 1892-3 and 1899-1906 under the Belgian symbolist Jean Delville; (He became the institution’s director of drawing and painting in 1932).
“During this period, he acquired his technique characterized by bold, vigorous and painterly manipulation, this with the various influences of Delville, the Glasgow Boys, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Jules Bastien-Lepage. His work begins to echo modernism under James Abbott McNeill Whistler in and around the city.
“An exhibitor at the Royal Glasgow Institute throughout his career, in 1919 and throughout the 1920s, Forrester Wilson presented works with the evocative titles of The Echo, The Song and The Wind. It would be this period that exposed the importance of the aesthetic ideal in his work.
“David Forrester Wilson’s known output is relatively small, but his works are in some of the world’s most prestigious collections and admired by other artists throughout the 20th century.”
Andy Warhol owned several of Wilson’s works, with “The Wind” supposedly one of his favorite paintings.
‘The Wind’ was set to fetch $110,000 – 10 times its pre-sale estimate of $10,000 – when it was auctioned off with a number of Warhol ‘treasures’ in a landmark sale of its estate at Sotheby’s in May 1988, just over a year after the death of the Pop Art pioneer.
Reporting on the sale at the time, The Washington Post remarked that Wilson’s painting was “typical of Warhol’s disconcerting taste”. They wrote: “A watercolor by Paul Klee pocketed $286,000, sharing the honors of the lot with a less impressive painting by Picasso…In stark contrast to Klee’s avant-garde stripes but typical of Warhol’s disconcerting taste, the painting David Forrester Wilson’s bucolic “The Wind” sold for $110,000. , 10 times higher than its pre-sale estimate.
As well as hanging on the walls of the famed hedonistic hub that was The Factory in midtown Manhattan, another Wilson work, “Time and History,” hung – and remains – in the room’s grander setting. of Glasgow City Chambers banquet hall. . Wilson was commissioned to paint a large decorative panel in the hall in 1911, just five years after completing his studies at the Glasgow School of Art.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum is also home to Wilson’s ‘Faggots’, a work which the Glasgow Corporation bought for £150 in 1915, the equivalent of around £17,000 in today’s money.
Wilson was also a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts for over fifty years, with ‘The Wind’ said to have first been exhibited to the public there in 1919, priced at £300.
Later this month, a rare masterpiece from Andy Warhol’s acclaimed Death And Disaster series is set to fetch over $80m (£69m) at auction, while the oil painting Wilson’s ‘Gathering Faggots’ oil is currently up for sale on eBay for less than £. 8,000.