Wood, Beatrice

First name: 
Year of birth: 
San Francisco
Country of birth: 
United States
Year of death: 

Beatrice Wood was born in San Francisco on March 3, 1893, into a wealthy family. When she indicated to want to become a painter she was registered at the French Academy Julian in Giverny. She found the training too academic and managed to escape. Her mother came to her and took her to Paris. Beatrice wanted then to work at the theater and her mother made sure she received private lessons in acting and dance at members of the Comédie-Française.

At the beginning of the first world war, she moved to New York. In New-York Wood started to act as French-speaking actress, under the pseudonym Mademoiselle Patricia, in order not to shame her family. Around its 20th Wood did away from her share in the family fortune, to be a self-employed woman by living. Because they spoke good the French language, she was introduced to the French composer Edgard Varèse, who was in the hospital and very lonely. Through him she met Marchel Duchamp, with whom she began a love affair. Along with Henri-Pierre Roché, they formed a ménage à trois.

However, they made themselves independent of Duchamp and moved to Montreal in 1918. There she married a theatre manager to escape from the influence of her mother. The theatre, however, did not please her and she moved back to New York, where it appeared that the Dadaist movement of Duchamp was gone. They fell in love with the British actor Reginald Pole. Through him she made knowledge with Theosophist Annie Besant and with Jiddu Krishnamurti. When Pole felt in love with a much younger woman Wood moved to Los Angeles to be close to her friends, the Arensbergs and Krishnamurti.

In 1933 she began to take an interest in ceramics and she followed a course at the Hollywood High School and then became a student of the ceramists Gertrud and Otto Natzler. When they started to get succesful her teachers accused her for copying their forms and their glaze and Beatrice had to leave. In 1947 she was able to build a house for herself in Ojai, in front of Krishnamurti. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought her work. Also she went teaching in ceramics.

Wood had an exhibition in Japan in 1961 and they also visited India. Also in 1965 and 1972 she was trafelling to India. In 1974, when Wood was over 80, she had built a new house with studio on the territory of the Happy Valley Foundation. She could finance it by selling a drawing by Duchamp. 

About Beatrice Wood is said that she never allowed a man to control her life and that she always paid her own bills. She was twice married with men she didn't love, and has had romantic relationships with 7 other men. She was a vegetarian and drank no alcohol. Under the influence of Krishnamurti and her travel to India she dressed herself in colourful Indian saris and wore many silver and turquoise jewelry, even if she was working. 

Beatrice Wood died in Ojai (CA-USA) on March 12, 1998 (text Wikipedia).

Pictures: Beatrice Wood as a young girl (source Cover book I shock myself); Beatrice Wood (source Pinterest); Beatrice in her studio (source Bloom-site); Beatrice in her studio around 1980 (source Tina Perlmutter); bowl on foot (source Tikun Olam); bowl on foot in metal oxide glazes (source LA Creek Freak); her monography Gilded Vessel







Work of the artist: 

Wood werkte vooral aan keramiek. Zowel dit kunstmedium als het feit dat zij een vrouw was, veroorzaakte dat zij weinig bekend werd tijdens haar leven, en vooral bekend werd door haar relatie met Duchamp. 

In 1917, toen Duchamp zijn beroemde "fontein", een urinaal op zijn kant, exposeerde bij de eerste expositie van de Society of Independent Artists exposeerde Wood het werk "Un peut (peu) d'eau dans du savon", dat bestond uit een schilderij van een naakte vrouwentorso met een echt stuk zeep op een strategische plaats. Dit werk wekte veel verontwaardiging op bij het publiek en Wood werd zwaar bekritiseerd door de pers. Wood, Duchamp en Roché begonnen ook een Dadaïstisch tijdschrift, The Blind Man. 

Na deze periode maakte Wood glimmende keramische voorwerpen en satirische menselijke figuren. Jarenlang was Wood een marginale kunstenares, maar zij kwam de laatste 20 jaar van haar leven in de mode toen de New Yorkse kunsthandelaar Naumann en Garth Clark uit Los Angeles, haar werk gingen verkopen. 

Wood maakte ook schilderijen en tekeningen, waarin zij zelf figureerde als eeuwig-jonge vrouw. 

In 1985 schreef Wood een autobiografie getiteld I Shock Myself. Andere boeken van haar hand zijn The Angel Who Wore Black Tights, Pinching Spaniards en 33rd Wife of a Maharajah: A Love Affair in India. Zij schreef ook onder het pseudoniem Countess Lola Screwvinsky.