Charles Wells, who initially intended to become a writer, began painting in an attempt to supplement his income. Around 1961, he discovered a book design by Leonard Baskin that wound up changing his life. Determined to study with the sculptor, he packed his paintings into his car, and headed for Northampton, Massachusetts, where Baskin was teaching. By the mid 1960s Wells had given up literary ambitions for his interest in the visual arts. He received a Prix de Rome and spent a year at the American Academy. In his sculpture and graphic work, Wells often chooses motifs related to humanity's struggle against unnatural restraints. He works with the theme of the individual as victim, and draws ideas from literature and contemporary social issues. Like his generalized figural compositions, his portraits have a haunting, masklike quality that probes psychological states rather than nuances of appearance.
Virginia M. Mecklenburg Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Museum of American Art, 1987)