Rose Wylie: Quack Quack review – crude, joyous spontaneity

By Laura Cumming

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London
Wartime planes, bathtime ducks, a pineapple and Elizabeth I are equally monumental in Wylie's huge, unfettered canvases

Grand, ungainly and defiantly young – this is the art of Rose Wylie. It is a strange and anomalous combination, especially since she is now 83. Looking at her enormous canvases, which might show a park bench, a film star surrounded by flying ears or a biscuit on its way into someone's open mouth, you reel at the sheer directness of the painting, presented with all the primitive force of a child's drawing. Her works are crude and joyous, and as awkward as she wants them to be.

They are also catnip for collectors, critics and students alike. Wylie found fame late, winning the Paul Hamlyn, Charles Wollaston and John Moores prizes for painting in her 70s and 80s. Born in Kent, where she still lives, her career was interrupted by motherhood for many years, and she only completed her MA at the age of 47. The earliest work in this retrospective dates only as far back as 1997 – a yellow bird peering out of some clumsily painted branches, but at just the right angle to show its fledgling wariness – and her style has scarcely changed ever since.

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