In 1942, at the height of his fame, Augustus John predicted that 'fifty years from now I shall be known as the brother of Gwen John'. Gwen John (1876 - 1939) is indeed now recognised as a great artistic innovator, yet for years her life remained shrouded in the myth of the solitary recluse. Born in Pembrokeshire, Gwen followed her brother to the Slade. Her future was bound up with Augustus, his women and his coteries, yet she was also daring and highly original, living determinedly in her own way. Defiant yet shy, she painted and modelled amid the Bohemian circles of early twentieth-century Paris and embarked on a long, intense love affair with France's most legendary artistic figure, the sculptor Rodin. A friend of Symbolist poets and post-Impressionist painters, later she turned increasingly to religion, achieving a deep serenity which masked her inner turbulence, creating her haunting paintings - delicate, austere, restrained and still. Based on her lively and passionate unpublished letters and copiously illustrated, this vivid new biography challenges our prejudices about the ways we evaluate women artists and finally uncovers the life of this ardent and complicated personality, one of the finest artists of her day.
Important Notice: The digital edition of this book is missing some of the images or content found in the physical edition.
British novelist, poet and critic Roe (Estella) offers a biography of the painter John (1876 1939), who focused on Whistler-like portraits and spent some time as mistress to the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Once undervalued because of the celebrity of her now-neglected painter brother Augustus John (1878 1961), Gwen John is an utterly British subject in her lifelong shyness and reticence, yet offers a welcome alternative for Brit-o-phile readers weary of the Bloomsbury circle (Roe's Writing and Gender: Virginia Woolf's Writing Practice among the plethora of titles). This new book tells more than most readers will want to know about degrees of feeling in John's relationship with Rodin and her emotions when she loses her cat, Quinet. Despite the book's subtitle, there is mostly vague and generalized analysis of the paintings themselves: "...her work gained a strong, fluid sense of immediacy and an intimacy between artist and subject," is a typical assay. The many women Johns painted reveal some interesting psychological states, including bleary depression, sexual repression and clear excitement sometimes all in the same image. But Roe gets too caught up in landlords' bills and the like, and fails to focus clearly on John's highest achievements (shown in 16 pages of b&w and color images). As a modern woman artist, Johns had a life about one-tenth as interesting as that of contemporaries like Mina Loy, but this recognition of her contribution should at least restore her to the era's artistic ferment.