Rose Wylie

‘I like to work from a known image, so the viewer can see what has happened to it... how it's been transformed or not.’ - Rose Wylie

Rose Wylie was born in Kent in 1934, and trained at Folkestone and Dover School of Art and Goldsmiths College, where she met fellow artist Roy Oxlade. They married in 1957, and Wylie broke off from painting for twenty years in order to bring up their three children, resuming in 1979, when she began an MA at the Royal College of Art. Her large, childlike renderings of popular subjects on unstretched canvas have gradually won recognition in the art world, and she is often described as an “artist's artist”. She was awarded the 2011 Paul Hamlyn Prize for Visual Arts, and was the subject of a major retrospective at the Jerwood Gallery in 2012, followed by an exhibition at Tate Britain in 2013. In September 2014, she became the oldest ever recipient of the John Moores Painting Prize. Her work is held in major collections including Tate Gallery, Jerwood Foundation, the Arts Council England and the National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.

Artist Rose Wylie at her studio in Kent. Henrietta Oxlade.

Artist Rose Wylie at her studio in Kent. Henrietta Oxlade.

Wylie was just 21 years old, studying art in Folkestone and Dover when she was painted by Anthony Devas in 1955 for Aero chocolate advertising. She describes herself as being a "rebellious art student" at the time, adding that her look was "more punk than Mills & Boon cover." It is apt that the painting is labelled, not with the true identity of the sitter, but with the fictitious advertiser's title, Alice.

As a young woman, Wylie regularly modelled for the artist John Ward and it was whilst his friend, the artist Devas was staying with him, that she sat for this Aero commission. She knew that her portrait would appear in Rowntree's Aero adverts and by the time she was at Goldsmiths College in 1956, the image had already been published in the Daily Express, News of the World and People Illustrated.

Rose Wylie sizing a canvas at her studio in Kent, 2014. Henrietta Oxlade.
Rose Wylie sizing a canvas at her studio in Kent, 2014. Henrietta Oxlade.

Rose Wylie sizing a canvas at her studio in Kent, 2014. Henrietta Oxlade.

Wylie has had international solo shows in New York, Moscow, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam and Tate Britain, London. Her large-scale paintings, often compared to the work of painters Philip Guston and Jean-Michel Basquiat, are an interesting counterpoint to the Aero portraits. Wylie draws upon stories and characters which are already in our consciousness, allowing her work to restage and reframe them. Much of the imagery in her work is painted from memory and she combines these with observational drawing. Subject matter varies from the familiar faces of well known footballers and actresses to doodlebugs and these images are often disrupted or reinforced with the inclusion of text. Wylie adds that, “disrupted text points out that 'how it looks' is more important than 'what it says'”.

Whilst she is far from being an 'outsider artist', Wylie never allows the gestures in her own work to become too deft or elegant. She will often erase parts of a painting, sticking canvas or paper scraps over these areas and starting again. “I've always liked children's painting and untaught artists”, she says. “They are doing something real for them.”

Written by Kerstin Doble

Sources and more on Rose Wylie

Channel 4 News: Meet the Aero Girl who is also a world-renowned painter. Retrieved 6 May 2014.

The Guardian: Rose Wylie: 'My mother thought women should have an escape route' . Retrieved 6 May 2014.

Jeff Macmillan (2011) "Jeff McMillan interviews Rose Wylie", Turps Banana, Issue 10, 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2014.

Tate Gallery: TateShots: Rose Wylie. Retrieved 6 May 2014.

Jennifer Higgie, Savannah Miller (2013) Rose Wylie, Skira, Italy (monograph)

Jerwood Gallery (2012), Rose Wylie: Big Boys Sit in the Front, Jerwood Gallery, London.

Martin Herbert (2009), Film Notes and Other Paintings 2006-2009, Union, London (exhibition catalogue).

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