Gerard Wagner was born on April 5, 1906 and died on November 13, 1999 in Arlesheim, Switzerland. His father died when he was two years old. Four years later his mother moved with her children to Northern England where she had grown up.
After the requisite schooling, the young man, by then almost eighteen years old, went to St Ives, a small village of painters and fishermen on the furthermost west cost of Cornwall, where he studied landscape painting. His teacher was oriented to colour rather than sketching. The young student set up his paintbox alongside his teachers, in the small harbour; or in its winding lanes, between fisher boats and wash lines. An old barrack on the seawall where in days gone past herrings had been dried served as a studio. There the young painter invited the oldest fishermen to sit for portraits. Cliffs and water, but especially the changing play of light and the powerful beauty of the elemental life of a seacoast, fashioned the environment of this first learning experience. Landscape and fisherman’s portraits became the motif, oil painting the technique.
In the following year, the study was continued at the Royal College of Art in London, in order to complete a sketching training. The buildings adjoined the Victoria and Albert Museum, which the students could enter by means of a door inside. Thus, the hall where Raphael’s tapestry boards were hung was often visited in the pause at midday.
London offered many opportunities to study the great masterpieces of past centuries. One delved into the ancient worlds. The monumental works of the Assyrians, the Persians, the Egyptians and the Greeks transported the contemplator into those age-old cultures which called forth a feeling of reverence. The stimulus from out of the sphere of painting was without end, from the earliest beginnings to Raphael, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Turner, van Gogh…which up until then he had only known in reproductions. Through comparing the originals with the prints he learned to differentiate between the authentic and the unauthentic in art.
In London, Gerard Wagner became acquainted with the thought world of Rudolf Steiner. He became a member of the Anthroposophical Society and, in the summer of 1926, went to the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.
© Copyright 2005 Katherine Rudolph, Exploring The Word in Colour and Speech