In a frantic few pre Xmas weeks fraught with work and parties, my highlight has been seeing a woman I have known since I was a child becoming the darling of the art world – a wonderful talented lady who has reached the zenith of her career at an age defying 83.
Rose Wylie’s exhibition Quack Quack opened this week at the Serpentine Gallery. It’s a genuine delight – giant canvases, cartoon like images in pleasing sherbet colours are bursting with life and joy telling a story she has created over the past 22 years of her life and visualizing what captures her imagination – from cult celebrity to movies and moments. Childlike yet utterly sopisticated and epically appealing: just like the woman herself.
I first met her as the mum of my best friend at boarding school – Henrietta. Rose was always an original. She rocked up at Founders Day in a petticoat dress, pink Mary Janes and make up applied…. originally! She used to draw her lower lashes on with pencil cementing a porcelain doll-like effect.
But, ethereal though she looked, she was always a strong thinking woman with striking views on art, women and the world. The Oxlade’s (her married name, she was married to another painting genius Roy and a movie was recently made of their life and love affair: Rose & Roy) had epic dinner parties. Henri’s older brother Luke would bring a pack of his fellow Cambridge undergraduates and they would put the world to rights while eating feasts, drinking vats of wine and smoking endlessly.These young men were drawn to Rose and she would hold court smoking a cigar between claret stained lips. We were all spellbound. (And, she never did share with me the secret of her legendary salad dressing!)
Speaking to her about life and art this week I was just in wonder at how she has managed to have a life so well lived: a career planted in her passion, a family that adore her, a singular love of her life and the world at her feet. A wonderful woman: Rose you are my inspiration – aren’t we lucky to have you.
Love Jane x
Rose Wylie Quack Quack is at The Serpentine Sackler Gallery W2 0207-402 6075. serpentinegalleries.org. Until February 11 2018.