Zebra and Parachute
is one of Wood’s last paintings. The image brings together an unusual collection of elements that give the work a surrealist flavour. A zebra appears against the backdrop of a modernist building - the Villa Savoye, near Paris, designed by Le Corbusier. In the sky above this scene, a parachute is descending. The tiny figure that dangles in the parachute harness appears limp and lifeless which gives us a glimpse into Wood’s mind set at the time. In the context of this work, the building’s modernism suggests civilization and the zebra is a signifier of the exotic, a theme he repeated with his other surrealist work Tiger and Arc de Triomphe
Wood: Zebra and Parachute
457 x 559 mm
Oil paint on canvas
Date of work
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2004
Christopher Wood was born in Kowsley, near Liverpool on 7 April 1901, the son of Mrs Clare and Dr Lucius Wood, a GP. Wood began to draw at the age of 14 while he was recuperating from septicaemia, and went on to study architecture briefly at Liverpool University. In 1920 he was invited to Paris where he studied drawing at the Academie Julian in 1921. He had no problems with settling into the fashionable artistic circles where he met Augusts John and was introduced to Picasso, Georges Auric and Jean Cocteau, and to the use of opium.
He travelled and exhibited with the Nicholsons and became close to them personally and artistically, he spent time painting with them in Cornwall, during which time he discovered the Painter Alfred Wallis.
Whilst travelling with his paintings, he met with his mother in Salisbury. Possibly believing himself pursued (an affect from withdrawing from opium), he threw himself under a London Train and died on the 21st of August 1930.