Pupil of John Anthony PARK, who at the age of 17 arrived in St Ives to become a full-time resident student in 1924.
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany of a German father, Max Wagner, and an English-born German mother, Julie Lange, Gerard was the youngest of three sons. His father, always in delicate health though a successful and wealthy entrepreneur in metal manufactory, died when Gerard was two. The family was brought back to Britain when he was six, to be near his mother's family and to be educated in England. Altogether a highly cultured family, the Wagners were musical, attended the theatre and filled their home with art. A favoured painter of works hanging at home was the post-impressionist John Anthony Park, and contact was made through family friends, Edgar SKINNER and his wife Edith, who lived in St Ives.
His recent biographer and former pupil, Caroline Chanter, tells 'The language of colour was to become Gerard Wagner's chief interest along with a strong desire to decipher it...John Park felt he could teach his pupils most things about art but a feeling for colour was something each had to discover for themselves.' [Quoting from Austen Wormleighton, Morning Tide] His friendship with John and Peggy Park was close, and he became part of their family for the year that he stayed in St Ives, and always thereafter. A high-point of that time was a sketching tour that Gerard took with the Parks in and around St Tropez in Provence in the spring of 1925.
Through the good offices of Bernard LEACH, arrangements were made with William Rothenstein at the Royal College of Art in London, for Gerard to work on his drawing skills from later that same year. From there he was to move on to Dornach, in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. It was the summer of 1926, and Rudolph Steiner who had established his colony there, had died the previous year. Helping to sustain and extend the work of this artist and educationalist, Gerard Wagner set up his own artist's studio in the village and was to remain for many years, working on his own and attending events at the 'Goetheanum' (the name given by Steiner to his establishment). He was to cultivate a great interest in plants and trees, working with natural images fused with colour.
The artist married Elizabeth Koch, his first full time pupil and sculptor in her own right. The two were to travel widely and run their own school of art in Dornach with workshops held internationally.
Chanter's monograph treats of Wagner's life and work with great sensitivity and is to be recommended. She now lives in Dornach and teaches at a painting school near the Goetheanum.
Painter in oils and watercolour
works and access
1997: Retrospective, Hermitage, St Petersburg
2006: Centenary exhibitions: Goetheanum, Dornach; Museum Palac Stzuki, Cracow, Poland
misc further info
Chanter, Caroline (2012) His Beloved St Ives, The Painter Gerard Wagner at the Cornish Art Colony 1924-1925, Iris Books, ISBN 978-3-9524086-0-5 with an Introduction by Austen Wormleighton
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall p350
Whybrow St Ives (1921-1939 list pp 219-21)
Gerard Wagner/Elisabeth Koch, Die Kunst der Farbe (The Art of Colour) (1980) Verlag Freies Geistesleben
Wormleighton, A (1998) Morning Tide - John Anthony Park and the Painters of Light Stockbridge Books