Who was this artist who lived and worked in the shadows for many years in Rockport and Gloucester, and why should we on Cape Ann be interested in his life and work?
Arthur William Wilson (July 20, 1892 – November 18, 1974) was an American artist who painted under several known pseudonyms, including Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran. Wilson/Miran is considered one of the earliest artists of the Post Modern Art Movement. He is widely quoted from his Manifesto For Post-Modern Art, published in 1951, under the name Pico Miran.
Wilson attended Harvard College between 1911-1915, becoming an Editor of the The Harvard Monthly with his friends John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings. Wilson would go on to share an apartment at 21 East 15thStreet in New York City with E.E. Cummings, and enlist in the U.S. Military during 1917-1919, joining John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings and other Harvard students in France. He spent time in Paris with E.E. Cummings, and mingled with Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and other influential painters of the period in London and Paris in the 1920’s.
Wilson was active in the New York, NY, Lime Rock, CT, Gloucester, MA, and Rockport, MA art scenes between the 1930’s – 1972. Wilson painted post-modern artwork utilizing the name Pico Miran in his Gloucester, Massachusetts studio, taught portraiture at the Rockport Art Association in Rockport, Massachusetts under the name Winslow Wilson, and painted seascapes as Winslow Wilson in his Rockport, Massachusetts studio.
From all aspects, it seems that Wilson was strongly influenced by his time at Harvard and World War I. In addition to a tragic event which resulted in the death of one of Wilson’s friends in 1912, there is evidence that Wilson encountered trauma during World War I. Art became a vehicle through which Wilson found solace. His Post-Modern artwork is replete with images of industrial and nuclear effects upon the common man. Growing up in rural Texas, to a life in Boston and New York, friendships with intellectuals, Wilson’s writings reveal a man who held his craft and opinions in high regard. Understanding that Wilson eschewed family relationships while fully immersing himself as a bit of an artistic recluse, provides an insight into the life of this artist.
Following Wilson’s death in 1974, his long-term companion, Jane Grey (an accomplished portrait artist), gifted his paintings to his only son, Horace Peter Wilson. Those paintings remained stored in Kansas City until 2012, at which time the paintings were distributed to Wilson’s grandchildren.
In 2014, Gloucester writer David Rich wrote about Wilson: “His value lies in his theorizing postmodernity, and making the first forays into postmodern visual art — the seascapes were a virtuoso performance; Winslow was no less a character than Pico or Tex. In that sense he was a performance artist. A kind of Andy Kaufman who took personae and masks to the extreme. On this conceptual level, if explained as such, Wilson ought to be recovered; and could be recovered by an astute and enterprising curator.”
The paintings are in the process of being professionally restored and framed, and efforts are underway to showcase Wilson’s paintings.
For more information please visit the Winslow Wilson website.