He spent much of the war on the Danish island of Bornholm, planning a series of paintings about death and resurrection. He died young, a century ago today.
Born into poverty in Stockholm, he worked as an assistant to Carl Larsson before training in Sweden and Paris. One of the fathers of Modernism.
Towards the end of the Great War, he spent a period in Nice, with his partner Jeanne Hébuterne. His only solo exhibition was closed by the police within hours of its opening.
Portraits of Picasso and other artists of the day, two dealers, and the start of his series of nudes painted for Leopold Zborowski.
Soon after his arrival in Paris, in 1906, he switched to sculpture. He had the idea of a ‘temple to humanity’, with hundreds of caryatids to support it.
His final series of Landscapes of the Moon and Aerial Flowers are among his most visionary, and refer to much of his previous work, and that of William Blake.
Appointed as a full-time war artist to the RAF, he was expected to paint portraits of aircrew. He had other, much better ideas.
At the height of his surrealism, his paintings were inspired by found objects, Freud, and the megalithic monuments of Wessex.
During the 1920s, he painted some of his finest conventional landscapes, and became overtly surrealist.
Finally, we start to understand how oil paint works – just as Modernist painters seem determined to stop it from working at all.