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Augustus John

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Category: Art
Reference No: 10407
Status: Available
Price: £50.00
  Augustus John

click on the small image to see a larger version


Great larger-than-life Welsh artist, a towering archetype of the bohemian artist as well as being the top portrait painter of his generation.

After enrolling at the Slade School of Art in 1894, John’s life changed forever in 1897. In the summer of that year he suffered a severe accident hitting his head on a rock whilst diving into the sea and when he finally returned to the Slade he was a different man. Gone was the old “methodical” student; in his place was a bearded bohemian who sported a gypsy hat, silk scarf and gold earrings and drank heavily. When funds permitted it, he and his associates would frequent the Café Royal, where he became a centre of attraction for a cosmopolitan crowd of artists, writers, aristocrats,  gentlemen and anarchists.

John also developed a nomadic lifestyle and for a while he lived in a caravan and camped with gypsies.

He was a notorious womaniser, maintaining a ménage a trios with his wife Ida and a mistress and sleeping with countless barmaids, art students, luminaries as Lady Ottoline Morrell, the actress Eileen Hawthorne and the author Ian Fleming's mother and anyone else who took his fancy. He is said to have fathered over 100 illegitimate children, and it became fashionable at one time to claim to have had a child with him.
By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, John was the best-known artist in Britain. His friendship with Lord Beaverbrook enabled him to obtain a commission in the Canadian Army and was given permission to paint what he liked on the Western Front. He was also allowed to keep his facial hair and therefore became the only officer in the Allied forces, except for King George V, to have a beard. After two months in France he was sent home in disgrace after taking part in a brawl.

The 1920s were a Golden Age For Augustus John as Britain's leading portrait painter. Those who sat for him included Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, T.E. Lawrence,
Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill.

In later life, John wrote two volumes of autobiography, Chiaroscuro (1952) and Finishing Touches (1964). In old age, although John had ceased to be a moving force in British art, he was still greatly revered, as was demonstrated by the huge show of his work mounted by the Royal Academy in 1954. He continued to work up until his death in Fordingbridge in Hampshire in 1961.

This is an extraordinary survival - Augustus John has clearly been accosted by a fan and responds by giving him a invitation to a private viewing of his pictures, handwritten in bold black pencil on the only paper available, the back of a 1923 Telegraph Form ( "Please admit Mr Anthony Symons to private viewing, Augustus John"). The form is on lightweight paper, has vertical and horizontal creases and some small areas of staining, but is nevertheless in good condition and has wonderful, evocative charm. RARE.