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Japan and India

In 1961 Beatrice Wood attended an exhibition of her work in Japan, where her pottery stood in stark contrast to the accepted approach to ceramics.

"One very erudite Japanese said to me, "But Miss Wood, your work is very beautiful but you use a great deal of color", she later said of the experience. "And I said, "Yes sir, I'm not a Japanese, and I live in a pink and blue house in bright sunlight." He laughed and bought a piece. It was this spirit that led Beatrice to draw from traditions while maintaining her creative freedom. As she would tell potters in lectures:

"Do be true to yourself, whether it's bad doesn't matter. The important thing - you have to copy while you're studying. And culture is - each of us - is like one pearl added to another to make a chain. We each contribute to the other. And that's all right. But once you're on your own, do that which comes from within. And I feel this very strongly."  

 
Beatrice Wood - Photo by William Gray Harris
Beatrice Wood | Photo by William Gray Harris
Beatrice Wood at an Exhibition of her Work at the Takashimaya Department Store, Japan, 1961
Beatrice Wood at an Exhibition of her Work
at the Takashimaya Department Store
Japan, 1961

It was also in 1961, that Beatrice Wood received an invitation from the American State Department to visit India on a fourteen-city tour. In exposing the country to her work, she fell in love with the India and its art, which further inspired her use of surfaces texture, color, ornamentation and erotic imagery.

In 1965 she returned again to India, where she met a State Department employee named Ram Pravesh Singh, who later moved to Ojai to work as her manager for twenty-five years. She traveled to India a third time in 1972, acquiring a large collection of folk art and saris during these trips. Although she never again returned to the country she felt such an affinity for, India never left her.  

Beatrice Wood with Sri Prakasa
Beatrice Wood with Sri Prakasa, Governor of Bombay,
at the Opening Reception of her Exhibition
India, 1965

Paintings & Drawings

The paintings and drawings of Beatrice Wood often feature her as a young girl - her ever-youthful self-image. At 103 years of age, she wrote to a friend:

"I hang on to the statement of scientists that there is no time. Therefore, join me in telling everyone you are thirty-two. This allows me to go after young men and plan grabbing husbands from my girlfriends. Choosing to live in the timeless, I am now at the easiest and happiest time of my life."

Click on images for larger view:

Drawing 1
Drawing 2
Drawing 3
Drawing 4
Drawing 5
Drawing 6

Becoming a Writer

Beatrice Wood was in her late eighties when her first book, The Angel Who Wore Black Tights, was published. A few years later, her autobiography, I Shock Myself, was published, followed by Pinching Spaniards and 33rd Wife of a Maharajah: A Love Affair in India. There were also books written under the pseudonym of Countess Lola Screwvinsky. Despite an increasingly busy schedule and demand for her ceramics, she had become a writer.  

Beatrice Wood’s friend Anais Nin provided the model and encouragement for writing her autobiography, going as far as recommending that her agent publish it. As the daughter-in-law of Reginald Pole, one of Beatrice’s great loves, the two had kept in touch over the years.

“She was very nice,” Beatrice said of Anais Nin. “We have kind of a real tie together and… you see, she's been very kind. When… Reginald Pole died she wrote me a letter telling me of his death.”

Anais Nin had once written of her friend’s pottery, “Beatrice Wood combines her colors like a painter, makes them vibrate like a musician. They have strength even while iridescent and transparent. They have the rhythm and luster both of jewels and human eyes. Water poured from one of her jars will taste like wine.”  

Beatrice Wood and Anais Nin
Beatrice Wood and Anais Nin
Ojai, 1965


From Ingénue to Inspiration: Beatrice and the Cinema

Beatrice Wood inspired countless artists and writers with her work, even those in fields she did not work in, such as the cinema. Her relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché was said to have inspired the latter's book Jules and Jim, which was made into a celebrated French film by director François Truffaut.

She was also the subject of films herself, most notably Beatrice Wood: The Mama of Dada, created on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

Beatrice Wood's 105th Birthday
Beatrice Wood's 105th Birthday
Pictured with Actress, Gloria Stewart
and Titanic Director, James Cameron

Toward the end of her life, Beatrice provided inspiration for the character of "Rose" in James Cameron's film Titanic. She was invited to attend the premiere, but was too ill to do so. Instead, James Cameron and Gloria Stuart (who played the Beatrice-like character in the film) dined with Beatrice and presented her with a video of the movie. Beatrice declined to watch it, because she believed that it would be sad and that it was too late in life to be sad. She passed away several days later.  
 

Beatrice Exits

Beatrice Wood passed away in 1998, at the age of 105 years of age, with the last 25 years of her life her most productive, creating work to satisfy a growing market for her ceramics, writing books and visiting with the hundreds of people who showed up on her doorstep. When asked the secret of her longevity, she would simply offer “art books, chocolates and young men”.

Yet, decades spent living what might be called a bohemian artist’s lifestyle had not distanced Wood from her belief in “true love”. She was married twice, but never made love to either of her husbands. She fell deeply in love seven times, but did not marry any of these men. Throughout her life, Beatrice Wood continued to think of herself as a romantic. She later said that the mountain that she lived alongside after her move to Happy Valley was the only partner she could count on “to be there when I go to bed at night and still be there when I wake up the next morning.”  

Beatrice Wood - Photo by Tony Cunha
Beatrice Wood | Photo by Tony Cunha

 

Beatrice Wood's 105th Birthday
Beatrice Wood and Topa Topa Mountain | Photo by William Gray Harris

 


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