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China Dogs in a St Ives Window by Christopher Wood has been bought from a private collection by Pallant House Gallery in Chichester after a fundraising campaign.

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It has been on long-term loan to the gallery from a private collection since 2009 and is one of the most recognisable and important works in the gallery’s significant collection of Modern British art.

The painting was also a key work in the gallery’s major 2016 exhibition, Christopher Wood: Sophisticated Primitive.

Substantial amounts to support the purchase came from The Art Fund, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, generous donors and the Friends of Pallant House Gallery Acquisitions Fund.

The remaining £15,000 needed was raised through the Friends of the Gallery and members of the public. And thanks to the backing of a private donor, the necessary conservation work on the canvas and frame will now be undertaken. 

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China Dogs in a St Ives Window by Christopher Wood has been bought by Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Pictured are Shirley Nicholson (representing the Tom Nicholson Trust, the painting’s previous owners), Simon Martin (director of Pallant House Gallery), Julia Brettell (from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund) and Rachel Browning (from the Art Fund).

Artistic development

China Dogs in a St Ives Window demonstrates a pivotal turning point in Wood’s artistic development, says the gallery. It marks the formation of his deliberately ‘naïve’ figurative style which was highly influential to his peers in Britain during the late 1920s.

Like many of the paintings Wood created in St Ives, it draws upon a specific folk culture based on Cornish fishing traditions.

In 1920, Wood travelled to Paris where he soon began to move in the fashionable artistic circles, forming friendships with Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau.

Observing these artists and modern masterpieces by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and Henri Matisse had a major impact on his work.

Returning to England in 1925 Wood formed a strong friendship with the British artists Ben and Winifred Nicholson. He spent a great deal of time with the Nicholsons in St Ives in Cornwall but it was when he first travelled there alone in the autumn of 1926 that he painted China Dogs in a St Ives Window.