Saturday, July 20, 2019

About Charlotte Johnson Wahl - artist and mother of Boris.

Who knew that the man who is very likely to be the next Prime Minister is the son of an artist? I didn't until today.

His mother Charlotte Johnson Wahl has been an artist since her children were small - as evidenced by some of the paintings on her website

Indeed she has painted a rather splendid portrait of her eldest son Boris painting! (Re. the title he's known as Alexander of Al to family and childhood friends) .

In the portrait he has the very recognisable, wayward and very blonde hair together with what seems to be a tendency to look upwards at you from a slightly bowed head. (The last person who wowed the British Public while doing that was Princess Diana!)

Paintings of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson painting and her four children with Daisies
by Charlotte Johnson Wahl
In 2015 a friend arranged an exhibition of her work at the Mall Galleries - and I can't think for the life of me why I didn't go!  Apparently she was so good at selling her work that it had to be rounded up for this retrospective exhibition.

The exhibition was called Minding Too Much: A Charlotte Johnson Wahl Retrospective.
Powerful, personal and deeply moving, the exhibition presents a collection of stunning paintings that tell the story of Johnson Wahl's turbulent life. They chart marriage, motherhood and mental breakdown - followed by early onset Parkinson's disease.
You can see on her website some of the very powerful paintings she has produced about her life: 
  • as a mother of four children
  • as an individual overwhelmed by her phobias who suffered a severe and prolonged mental breakdown involving admission to the Maudsley Hospital - where she became a profilic painter. I think her Maudsley paintings are very strong - some of the best I've ever seen by somebody who is an inpatient. It reminds me of how Van Gogh settled and also became an extremely prolific painter who also painted prodigiously - producing some of his best work - while at the Saint-Paul asylum in St Remy de Provence. I'm not in the least bit surprised that she had a sell-out exhibition at the end of her stay!
Paintings from her time at the Maudsley
by Charlotte Johnson Wahl
  • of being involved in travelling and meeting people in different places and different groups within society.
Have a look at her website and make your own mind up.

I found some articles about her as both mother of future PM and her career as an artist which make for very interesting reading.
  • Artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl: far more than just 'Boris's mum' The Telegraph - this one in was written by the friend who rounded up the paintings for the restrospective and was published at the time of the exhibition. It's well worth a read - both in terms of seeing more of her work,  understanding what drives her approach to what she paints and how it all fits in with her life as the mother of a prodigious set of children!
A Johnson Wahl canvas is instantly recognisable – bold colours, strong compositions and a deep, instinctive insight into what it means to be human. She is a complete original. Johnson Wahl received little or no formal training but, aged five, was given oil paints by her highly academic parents. 'My older sister was terribly clever, as was my younger brother,’ she says. 'My parents didn’t know what to do with me, so they gave me some paints and I turned out to be good at it. Once I started I couldn’t stop.’
'I had become extremely phobic. I was terrified of all forms of dirt. In 1974, I had to go into the Maudsley as a patient of Professor [Hans] Eysenck [the influential late psychologist]. While I was there, I did 78 paintings and they gave me an exhibition.' (It was a sell-out).

There's also a Sky Arts Documentary called "Painting the Johnsons" - which I've not yet tracked down - but it looks fascinating and if it's not on Sky right now I'm sure it will be very soon!