Woolcock’s artwork to go under the hammer
From satirical artwork targeting Hitler to treasured children's cartoons humanising the animal world — the works of the late Peter Woolcock are to go under the hammer next Friday.
Many people will know Mr Woolcock for his weekly political cartoons in The Royal Gazette but he was very much known to the world as an “animal artist”, with a technique that gave life and depth to his characters “in that Woolcock way”.
Mr Woolcock died in December 2014 after falling from the pavement on to a passing car. He was on his way to deliver what turned out to be his final cartoon to the offices of The Royal Gazette.
He had been planning to open an exhibition at the Bermuda National Gallery but died before the wish was realised. However, the gallery decided to go ahead with an exhibition — which opened in January of this year — that focused on Mr Woolcock as “an artist and a man”.
His daughter, Diana Andrew, shared “boxes and boxes of sketchbooks, jottings and photographs” which honour the legacy of her father. She told The Royal Gazette: “When my father passed away, the outpouring of love and affection from the island as a whole was incredible.
“Dad seemed to have touched everyone reaching across racial, social and economic lines. His passing impacted so many people and it has been remarkable that the exhibition at the Bermuda National Gallery has stirred up emotions in so many people.
“Humour was an everyday part of dad's life. He saw humour in everything. Not only in his political cartoons printed every Friday in The Royal Gazette, but also in his life's work.
“Dad held a special place in the hearts of the people of Bermuda and this auction will afford them the opportunity to own a piece of artwork by someone many saw as a national treasure.
“The purpose was to honour dad and it has achieved that. If he were here he would be thrilled. Humbled, but thrilled.”
The auction includes some of Mr Woolcock's earliest surviving works including cartoons of Hitler, as well as a sketchbook with “sensitive and personal anecdotes” documenting his time during the war, and original works from his compilation of three books recently published in Woolcock's Wonders. There will also be a collection of his children's illustrations, comic strips and selections of original weekly cartoons printed in The Royal Gazette and his Woppened book series through the years.
Gary Phillips, chairman of the gallery, said: “It has been a tremendous and awesome privilege for the Bermuda National Gallery to have had this opportunity to shine a light on the totality and genius of Peter Woolcock's work.
“Bermuda has come to appreciate Peter Woolcock, not only for his talent as an artist but also for his insightful talent and his 'unbuttoned voice' as a political cartoonist.
“He understood, like no other, that, in the words of Oscar Wilde, politicians don't mind being 'insulted as long as they are not ignored'. As we applaud this gentle giant of a man and artist, we also salute and thank Peter's family for entrusting his work to the Bermuda National Gallery and for allowing, through this auction, a greater number of people to own these precious, collectible pieces.”
One donor came forward to buy and give Mr Woolcock's Beastiary series to the collection, which BNG executive director Lisa Howie described as “a boon for the museum and for the potential growth of a children specific art collection”.
Ms Howie added: “Peter would be thrilled that his beasts are being kept together and that the BNG is expressing a commitment to child-centred art.
“Certainly, in terms of value, the series is more valuable kept together. And to this point, the family will be offering artwork to be sold in series, giving collectors that same value-added opportunity.
“The bigger picture is that we will be able to foster learning with art activities for children based on Peter's Beastiary series for generations to come.
“Such is the essence of our art museum: preservation, education, and long-term commitment to our island community.”
A portion of the proceeds will go towards the Bermuda National Gallery, Saltus Grammar School gymnasium refurbishment and the Warwick Academy Bursary Fund.