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John Wilde (1919-2006)

One of the most influential artists in the Midwest and a leader in the American Surrealist movement, John Wilde was a widely respected painter, renowned draftsman, and master of silverpoint. His works are among the most powerful, startling, and brilliant images of his generation and his impact on American art is just beginning to be realized.

Through juxtapositions of scale and twists of fantasy, Wilde makes the common uncommon in a landscape strewn with the real and the imaginary. Drawing from the visual language of surrealism his images capture the dreamlike world of the subconscious with a sharpness of focus only a master draftsman could achieve.

“There is no good, no evil, only the thing in the moment. The marvelous beauty of the vista, just now, not later, and death claws at your flanks.” (John Wilde)

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 12, 1919, Wilde studied art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and served as an artist in the Army during WWII. After the war, Wilde returned to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master’s degree in art history and taught art studio courses from 1948 until his retirement in 1982. Although he received national acclaim and his works can be found in many major museums and private collections across the country, Wilde remained in Wisconsin where he helped shape the cultural identity of the state and inspired generations of artists for over six decades.