In 1943, when Alfred H. Barr, Jr. of The Museum of Modern Art surveyed the national art scene, he highlighted a particular group he dubbed “magic realists.” These were artists “who by means of an exact realistic technique try to make plausible and convincing their improbable, dreamlike or fantastic vision.” John Wilde was one of these artists.
From his home base in Wisconsin, he went on to become a leading light in the American Surrealism movement. During a seven decade career, Wilde saw more than fifteen hundred of his works find homes in museums and private collections; over 200 solo and group exhibitions featured his work. Even so, Wilde’s Wildes is a unique exhibition because it consists exclusively of the paintings and drawings he and his beloved wife Shirley kept in the privacy of their home. These works provide not only a marvelous overview of Wilde’s remarkable career and ability, but also an insight into how he worked and what he and Shirley cherished.
For Wilde, art was a form of psychological self-analysis—a vehicle for the resolution of internal personal issues. Nonetheless, the issues in question are also universal and ubiquitous: sex, nature, and the inevitability of death. Wilde achieved lasting national recognition, yet everything he needed was in two places: all around him in the fertile Wisconsin landscape and in his equally fecund imagination, which knew no boundaries.
Wilde's Wildes: A Very Private Collection