Gwendolen John


Artist Biography:

Gwendolen John was born 22 July 1876 in Pembrokeshire, Wales, sister of the painter Augustus John. She studied at the prestigious Slade School in London from 1894 to 1897 and then at Whistler’s School in Paris, where she continued to live from 1898. Her early paintings, such as the Portrait of the Artist’s Sister Winifred (1897–98) and Dorelia in a Black Dress (1903–04), are painted using thin glazes in the traditional manner of the old masters. Beginning with her series of paintings of Mère Poussepin, her style is characterised by thicker paint applied in small, mosaic- like touches. It became her habit to paint the same subject repeatedly. Her portraits are usually of anonymous female sitters seated in a three-quarter length format, with their hands in their laps. John exhibited in Paris for the first time in 1919 at the Salon d’Automne, and exhibited regularly until the mid-1920s, after which time she became increasingly reclusive and painted less. John’s drawings number in the thousands. In addition to studio work, she made many sketches and watercolours of women and children in church. Unlike her oil paintings of solitary women, these sketches frequently depict their subjects from behind and in groups. She also made many sketches of her cats.

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