|Shirley and John Wilde shown in 2006 at the Cooksville Commons. (Photo by Steve Ehle)|
But those who may have known him better, those who knew his past accomplishments as a respected professor at UW-Madison and as an internationally known artist who was a part of the so-called “magic realist” movement in art circles, would understand why one of Wisconsin’s foremost museum galleries is now featuring many of his finest and least seen artwork.
From June 13 to September 6, the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) in West Bend is devoting considerable space and time to a special Wilde exhibit. “Wilde’s Wildes: A Very Private Collection” includes approximately 80 paintings and drawings, most of which had hung or had been stored in John and Shirley Wilde’s Cooksville area home.
The cover of the catalog published for the "Wilde's Wildes" exhibit show available for viewing at the
Museum of Wisconsin Art.
John died in 2006. Shirley, his wife of 46 years, died earlier this year. Since Shirley’s death, their respective children gathered most of the artwork that their parents retained in their home for themselves and provided the collection to the MOWA for this unique exhibit.
John and his first wife, Helen, lived in Evansville from the early 1950s to the mid-sixties. Helen died in 1966. John and Shirley married in 1969 and lived in their Cooksville area home until their deaths. John, Helen and Shirley are buried next to each other in the Cooksville Cemetery. Between them, they had five children. Both John and Shirley served on the Board of the Historic Cooksville Trust, Inc. until their deaths.
In the foreword to a 66-page full-color exhibit catalogue compiled and written by exhibit curator Graeme Reid, MOWA’s Executive Director/CEO, Laurie Winters writes:
“Wildes’s Wildes: A Very Private Collection celebrates the private collection of John Wilde (1919-2006), one of the leading artists of the American Surrealism movement. Over seven decades, Wilde created a collection of the own paintings and drawings, works that easily could have found homes in museums or private collections but that he retained instead for his own enjoyment. Wilde’s Wildes recreates the artist’s collection, which includes paintings and drawings from every decade and phase of his long career as well as some of his earliest works in the late 1930s.”
At the June 18 exhibit opening, curator Reid took attendees through the second floor gallery devoted to John’s works and explained how the exhibit was compiled and provided an anecdotal narrative to John’s life and work. Later, Reid made a formal expanded presentation for those gathered for the opening. Reid has been invited to repeat his Wilde slide presentation program at a venue in Evansville. An announcement will be made later this summer regarding time and place for this event.
For more information on the Wilde exhibit at MOWA, visit the museum’s website at www.wisconsinart.org. The Wilde’s Wildes: A Very Private Collection catalogue is available for purchase from the MOWA Shop at a cost of $58 and can be ordered online, or it can be downloaded free of charge from MOWA’s website.
A John Wilde painting of Steve Ehle and his dog Davey painted in 2004.