THE LOST ARTIST – Named, but not found

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Seven years ago I went searching for the illustrator of a sketch of the eastern slope of Gibraltar, including The Caleta Palace Hotel, which I had recently purchased. The pen-ink drawing was signed Christopher Wood.

I found three artists of that name, in the end none fit the time or place, but the story of my search featured in the August 2010 edition of Gibraltar Magazine under the title Three Artists named Wood and a Gibraltar Sketch. The matter was forgotten about until I received an e-mail out of the blue in August this year. The e-mail was from Mrs. Barbara Bingham of Limerick, Ireland and in part read: “Through the internet I have been able to view two articles by Reg Reynolds that were published in August and September 2010 about his search for the artist Christopher Wood. I can tell him who the artist is and I can share the information with him if he has not discovered it since.”

I replied that I was indeed interested and thanked her in advance for any help she could provide. Her next e-mail explained why I had not been able to find the artist I had been looking for. “You spent a lot of time looking for Christopher Wood and it is such a shame that I hadn’t read your articles sooner to save you the trouble. I can definitely tell you that the artist was Chris Woodhouse who signed his work ‘Christopher Wood’. I know this because I used to babysit for him and his wife when I was stationed in Gibraltar while in the Royal Air Force between 1974 and 1977. Chris was a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force and on one occasion he gave me a gift of three of his prints which I attach to this e-mail for you to see…” So Christopher Wood was the nom de plume for Chris Woodhouse and that explains why I couldn’t find anything about him.

In the August, 2010 edition of Gibraltar Magazine I wrote of my search: ‘When I came across a bargain-priced sketch of Gibraltar at a car boot sale I didn’t hesitate to buy it. The well-crafted illustration was signed Christopher Wood. Intrigued I went to the internet to seek out artists with that name and came up with three – two were dead but one was alive and has a website.’

The living Christopher Wood is a Scottish contemporary artist who paints abstracts primarily in oils and acrylics and told me back then that he definitely did not draw the Gibraltar picture. The second Christopher Wood, a native of Liverpool, had passed through Gibraltar on his way to Tangier in 1922; the Caleta Palace wouldn’t be built for another forty years.  He was a friend of both Picasso and Jean Cocteau but became addicted to opium and in 1930 committed suicide by jumping in front of a train at Salisbury. He was just 29. The third Christopher Wood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1941 and was a potential candidate for the drawing. A graduate of Cambridge he worked for Christie’s Auction House and in 1977 established the Christopher Wood Gallery in London. He died in 2009.

Now, thanks to Barbara, former Senior Aircraftswoman of the RAF, I know that the illustrator of my sketch was actually named Chris Woodhouse. Unfortunately, after leaving the RAF she lost contact with him and despite research on the internet I have been unable to track him down. If Flt. Lt. Chris Woodhouse, retired, (or anyone who knew/knows him) would like to get in touch I would be very grateful.

words | Reg Reynolds