GWEN JOHN (1876 – 1939) is one of the foremost British artists of the twentieth century and this exhibition of twenty five works from private collections includes some of her most famous drawings and watercolors, ranging in date from about 1895 to about 1930.
The remarkable wash and pencil Etude pour “Les Suppliantes” of about 1910 (see above) was purchased from the artist by John Quinn, the celebrated American collector who became John’s patron. It subsequently belonged to A Conger Goodyear, first President of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The model was the artist’s friend Chloe Boughton- Leigh.
The sitter for Portrait of a Lady, also of about 1910, is unidentified but is probably Maude Boughton-Leigh, sister of Chloe. This sheet, from a private collection, is a promised gift to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
From 1907 until 1909, GWEN JOHN lived in the top floor room at 87 rue du Cherche-Midi in Paris’ sixth arrondissement, the setting for the gouache and pencil Self Portrait, Naked, Sitting on a Bed of 1909. It is one of several drawings about which she wrote to Auguste Rodin: "J'ai fait des dessins aujourd'hui pour montrer à mon Maitre [Rodin] que je n'ai pas été paresseuse aujourd'hui. Des dessins de moi-meme dans la glace. C'était difficile à dessiner.”
In 1911, the artist moved to Meudon, the suburb south-west of Paris where Rodin also lived. The watercolor and pencil Interior, Rue Terre Neuve (see above) is a view of her top floor studio at 29 rue Terre Neuve, the room which appears in many of her paintings.
Other works in the show include subjects for which GWEN JOHN is famous: watercolors of women and children in church; wash studies of cats; drawings of Brittany children done during the late 1910s; and The Victorian Sisters of the late 1920s.
Born in Wales, GWEN JOHN was the sister of the equally celebrated Augustus John. After studying at the Slade School in London, she spent her entire adult life in France. She was a model for and a lover of Auguste Rodin; they met in 1904 and the great sculptor was the central figure in GWEN JOHN’s life for a decade.
GWEN JOHN’s work is in virtually every major museum in Britain and, in America, in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; and both the Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Center, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Cecily Langdale, partner of Davis & Langdale Company, is the author of Gwen John: with a Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings and a Selection of the Drawings, published by Yale University Press in 1987. Langdale was a curator of the 2004 – 2005 Tate Britain exhibition Gwen John and Augustus John.