Denis Wirth-Miller: Landscapes and Beasts

Exhibitions: FREE

(No booking required)

Denis Wirth-Miller: Landscapes and Beasts

Saturday 1 October 2022 - Sunday 22 January 2023 | 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Galleries

Denis Wirth-Miller, Gust of Wind 1970 -71, oil on canvas, copyright The Estate of Denis Wirth-Miller

Artists Denis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon were friends for more than fifty years. However, while Francis Bacon is recognised today as one of Britain’s foremost painters, Denis Wirth-Miller is relatively unheard of.

This exhibition, the largest retrospective of Denis’s work to date, seeks to rectify this fact, showcasing the breadth of his paintings, and highlighting the influence he had on Francis and vice versa.

Featuring over a hundred artworks selected by writer and curator James Birch, ‘Landscapes and Beasts’ will showcase many previously unseen pieces by Wirth-Miller, as well as works by Francis Bacon and Wirth-Miller’s partner Richard ‘Dicky’ Chopping.

The exhibition focuses on the inspiration Wirth-Miller took from the Essex Landscape, as well as the influence that Bacon and Wirth-Miller had on each other’s work.

Works have been borrowed from the Arts Council Collection, Tate, as well several private lenders – including Jon Lys Turner, the co-executor of the Denis Wirth-Miller estate and author of Denis and Dickie’s biography, ‘The Visitors’ Book’.

Working out of one another’s studios in Wivenhoe, a small Essex village on the outskirts of Colchester, Denis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon developed a relationship that would prove to be one of Francis Bacon’s longest surviving friendships.  

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that a small number of paintings by Bacon from 1952 and 1957 were worked on by Wirth-Miller, and that small aspects of some of Wirth-Miller’s paintings from the same period were painted by Bacon.

However, the relationship dynamic between Wirth-Miller and Bacon was famously turbulent.

In 1977, after an exhibition at the Wivenhoe Art Club and a public spat with Bacon, Wirth-Miller destroyed his own pictures and virtually gave up painting.

‘Landscapes and Beasts’ follows Firstsite’s critically acclaimed 2021-22 exhibition ‘Life with Art’ – an exhibition which focused on artists of The East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, of which Denis Wirth-Miller and Dicky Chopping were a part and Francis Bacon visited.

An exhibition catalogue supported by Cheerio Publications will be available to purchase in conjunction with the exhibition from the Firstsite Shop and online.

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Welcome area at Firstsite. 'Big Hello' (2018) Peter Liversidge. Photo by Jayne Lloyd.

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