Tom Wood, Naked Self-portrait. Image: Bradford Museums & Galleries/Art UK

Although the figurative artist, Tom Wood, was born 1955 in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, and currently lives in Calderdale, there is a strong education, work and residency connection with the Bradford district.  His work is also in the permanent collection of Bradford Museums and Galleries.

General. Image: Bradford Museums and Galleries/Art UK

When Tom was three his father died of a heart attack and his mother, Colombe Camille Wood, moved with her three children to Liversedge, West Yorkshire.

Between  1966-75 Tom attended the Cardinal Hinsley Catholic Boys Grammar School in Bradford, where his art teacher, Andy Anderson, encouraged him to pursue an art career.

Tom completed a Foundation Course in Art at Batley School of Art, moving initially to Leeds Polytechnic to study graphic design.  However, he switched after one year to the Sheffield School of Art, where he studied Fine Art between 1976-78.

Whilst a student, Tom’s work, in the group show, ‘Seven Young Artists’, at the Danefield Gallery, Bradford, was spotted by Arthur Haigh, an influential local art collector and patron. Haigh subsequently bought a number of Tom’s paintings and championed his work. Tom later painted a award-winning portrait of Haigh (see below).

Arthur Haigh. Image: National Portrait gallery.

When he graduated with first class honours from Sheffield, Tom began teaching part-time at Batley School of Art, and then later at Bretton Hall College, Wakefield.

In the early 1980s, Tom, by now married and with a young family, had moved to Ewart Place, Great Horton, Bradford, and became the first artist in residence at Cartwright Hall in Lister Park.  He was also artist in Residence at the Piece Hall Gallery, Halifax, and in 1981 was awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Award. The following year, 1982, he was awarded a Gulbenkian Foundation Printmaker’s Award and received a commission from the print publishers, Woodward Roodhouse, to make a large etching for them.  Other later awards included: a second Elizabeth Greenshields Award in 1984;  Ninth International Print Biennale prizewinner, 1986, and Honorary Fellowship of Sheffield Polytechnic, 1989.

In 1983 his work was shown at the Paton Gallery, London, and he gained an Artist in Industry Fellowship at Vickers plc, Newcastle upon Tyne. This resulted in a 30ft by 5ft industrial mural, painted at the Vickers Factory, shown at Cartwright Hall and later hung in the Vickers works canteen in Newcastle.

In 1985, Tom’s portrait of Arthur Haigh (above) received second prize in the John Player Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery.  In this same year, Tom and his family moved to Halifax and in 1987 he began working at a studio at Dean Clough.  It was here that Tom’s work was spotted by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, on his visit to the Dean Clough galleries.  This meeting led to an official commission for a portrait of the Prince, with sittings at the Prince’s home, Highgrove House. Two paintings came out of the Prince’s commission: the first, smaller version, remains in the ownership of the Prince, and the second work (shown below), with a greater emphasis on symbolic subject matter, was exhibited: the ‘HRH The Prince of Wales: A Portrait Commission’, Dean Clough, 1989, and at Wakefield Art Gallery, 1990.

HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Image: National Portrait Gallery

Since then he has received many portrait commissions, amongst them Professor Lord Robert Winston, Barbara Windsor, and Alan Bennett (shown below),  with portraits commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, National Trust, numerous British universities, and for the Harewood Trust, where his large double portrait of Lord and Lady Harewood is on permanent display at Harewood House, Leeds.

Alan Bennett. Image:  National Portrait Gallery/Art UK

Tom Wood’s work has also featured in many group and solo shows, both in Britain and overseas, including at the Royal Academy of Arts, Wakefield Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art, Leeds City Art Gallery, Cartwright Hall, Bradford, National Portrait Gallery, Schloss Cappenberg, Kreiss Unna, Germany, and at Dean Clough, Halifax.

Tom Wood’s work is included in over thirty public and corporate collections in the U.K. These include the collection of HRH The Prince of Wales, Bradford Museums & Galleries,  National Portrait Gallery, Leeds University Collection, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Wales, University of Warwick, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham,  The National Trust, London Transport Museum, and the Hepworth Wakefield.


Mrs Camille Wood (the artist’s mother) Image: Bradford Museums and Galleries/Art UK

Video: See Tom Wood talking about his work for the National Portrait Gallery Tom Wood Interview

Additional reading:

Cappenberg, S. (1997) Corpus. Paintings and Drawings by Tom Wood. Kirklees Cultural Services.

Robinson D. (1996) Man and Measure: the Paintings of Tom Wood  Hart Gallery, London and Nottingham.

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