Eric Wilson’s Biography
Hidden away in the recesses of The National Gallery in Canberra are some 400 works by the greatest artist Liverpool has produced; Eric Wilson. Hundreds of his other works are scattered in other galleries and private collections across the country. So how is it that today almost nobody in Liverpool has ever heard of him? Why are his best works not proudly displayed, say, at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre? In part, the answer may lie in the fact that Eric Wilson was cut down in his prime, dying at the age of only 36.
While his contemporaries such as William Dobell and Sidney Nolen established their reputations over a long life, Eric’s potential and reputation was never fully realised.
Eric’s father William was a high profile businessman in Liverpool in the early 1900’s. William owned a saddlery and general store in Macquarie Street and was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Masonic Lodge and School of Arts.
Born in 1911, Eric was a child prodigy winning a local art prize and studying at the Auburn Junior Technical College under Julian Ashton. At the age of 26, Eric had a life changing opportunity when he was awarded the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship. This led Eric on a European tour studying in London at the Royal Academy. He painted and sketched in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
In 1946, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Art Critic wrote that his paintings were renowned for their “remarkable subtlety” and “striving for romantic atmosphere”.
He became renowned as one of Australia’s best abstract painters. Many of his early works portrayed scenes of Liverpool in the 1930s. Perhaps his best is ‘A Game of Draughts’. It depicts two Liverpool identities at the Liverpool School of Arts. A self portrait and one of his mother Madeline were powerful Archibald Art Prize entries.
Forgotten for too long, it’s about time Eric Wilson’s masterpieces were seen right here in his home town of Liverpool.