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Robert Arthur Wilson
(1884 — 1979)

Robert Arthur Wilson was a British painter. Wilson was born in Sunderland in 1884. Leaving school at the age of thirteen, he was employed for a time as a bookkeeper before beginning an apprenticeship under a local sign-writer in 1990. This was to be the start of Wilson’s eighty year long career as a painter. Throughout his time as an apprentice sign-writer, Wilson attended evening classes at the Sunderland School of Art where, in 1907, he was awarded a national scholarship on behalf of the Government to study at the Royal College of Art. His time spent at the college proved to be very successful.In 1911 he was awarded a bursary from the RCA which enabled Wilson to relocate to Paris to enrol at the Académie Julian. Wilson was welcomed in Paris by the artistic community of young British expatriates, where he formed many influential social and creative relationships. The influence of the French avant-garde movement was evident in his work for many years after returning to England.


From 1917 onwards, Wilson began producing several series’ of works, ranging from watercolour decorations to abstract designs, which were influenced by increasingly popular avant-garde theories regarding colour, music and emotion. His experimentation with the abstraction of colour rather than form earned Wilson a position among the great emerging artists of his generation. In 1919 his work was featured as part of a significant exhibition by the Allied Artists’ Association at the London Group. The following years saw Wilson continue his popular abstract exploration of colour theory for quite some time before, in 1923, deciding to change his artistic direction. In his later career Wilson favoured a more naturalistic style which focused on rural scenes painted in more traditional methods, often using the monochromatic grisaille technique. The work produced by the artist in his later years was a far cry from the more vibrant work of his artistic youth, however Wilson continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy whilst teaching at several art schools, often lecturing in the field of colour theory late in to his life. The artist died in 1979.