The Wood Beyond the World
The Wood Beyond the World
The Wood Beyond the World
The Wood Beyond the World
The Wood Beyond the World

CHARLES SIMS RA (1873-1928)

The Wood Beyond the World

c. 1913 England

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An important work by Charles Sims (British, 1873-1928). The Wood beyond the World, 1913. Charles Sims enrolled at the South Kensington College of Art in 1890 before moving to Paris for two years at the Académie Julian. Needing a bursary to support himself, he moved back to London and enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in 1893. From 1896, he developed an increasingly successful career, first exhibiting "The Vine" at the Royal Academy in 1896, and selling another painting "Childhood" to the Musée du Luxembourg. An expert at portraying sunlit landscapes, he specialised in society portraits and neo-classical fantasies, typically idealised scenes of women, children or fairies in outdoor settings. In 1906 a one-man show at the Leicester Galleries brought him critical and financial success, allowing him to relocate to rural Fittleworth. In 1910 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Watercolour Society, and in 1915 to the Royal Academy. "The Wood beyond the World" represents an idyllic scene celebrating springtide and the optimism of life. It is reminiscent of both "Primavera" by Botticelli and the work of Puvis de Chavannes. The children portray the chastity of youth, whilst alluding to pagan traditions and symbolism. The group of three female figures are the three Graces from classical mythology, whilst the central woman holding a child portrays the Madonna. A version of the present painting is in the collection of Tate Modern.
The Wood beyond the World was painted , the year before the great war. The First World War was a traumatic experience for Sims. In 1914, his eldest son was killed, and he worked for a time as a war artist in 1918. Post-war, his work changed track, and he began to develop religious and reclusive tendencies. He was upset at this time by criticism of his portrait of George V, which he destroyed. Despite receiving the honour of the keepership of the Royal Academy in 1920, he resigned and went to the United States to paint portraits, but became disgusted with society and abandoned portraiture in 1926. His final paintings, termed "Spirituals" (such as I am the Abyss and I am Light) featured naked figures against abstract apocalyptic backdrops. They were rejected by the artistic establishment for their baffling content and modernist style. In 1928, experiencing hallucinations, paranoia and insomnia, brought about by the horrific scenes he had witnessed as an official war artist and by his son's death, Sims committed suicide by drowning himself in the River Tweed near his home in St. Boswells, Scotland.
Shortly after his death, the Royal Academy made the decision to exhibit posthumously some of his final works, which they termed "Mystical" for want of any other classification. The RA president, Sir Frank Dicksee, described them as "in marked contrast to all his previous work, and indicat(ing) a violent change of mentality". A Times review of a further nine pictures from this period likened them to works of El Greco, "using his expedient of torn atmospheric forms for emotional purposes".
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Height 84.00 cm (33.07 inches)
Width 115.00 cm (45.28 inches)
Depth 4.00 cm (1.57 inches)
Stock Code
Oil upon canvas
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