De Glehn in his studio at Cheyne Walk, 1938
By the mid-1920s, Wilfrid was at the heart of the British artistic establishment. Such did his standing become among his fellow academicians that on the death of Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1944 he was asked to stand for the Presidency of the Royal Academy, an honour he declined. His exhibits at the Royal Academy were regular and continued in their earlier pattern, consisting of an almost equal mix of portraits, landscapes and ‘decorative pieces’ inspired by classical and literary themes. Wilfrid drew his inspiration for these decorative compositions from a variety of sources. His studies of bathers recall works from late in the career of the French Impressionist, Renoir; some of the poses of his nudes recall Ingres; the dream-like landscape-backgrounds evoke the atmosphere of Watteau’s fêtes champetres. In his choice of subjects however—Sappho, Leda, and Psyche, to name a few—one is reminded of his early training under the charismatic symbolist painter, Gustave Moreau, who celebrated in his work the femmes fatales and tragic heroines of classical literature.
Sappho, Cadgwith, Cornwall, 1926
Cupid and Psyche—A Study, c. 1925