Art, Books and Culture Group, August 2021 – Gwen John, some resources

Greetings! Such a glorious meeting of the ABC Group last weekend; wonderful to see everyone as always.

Gwen John (1876-1939): The Student (portrait of Dorelia McNeill) [1904; Manchester Art Gallery; artuk.org]

The Pictures

As always, one of the best resources to see the paintings is artuk.org – click on the link and it will take you to 80 pictures by Gwen John.

The other brilliant resource for images – in particular the drawings and watercolours is Sotheby’s – again, this link will take you straight there.

Articles & Essays

The Tate website has a broad overview of Gwen John’s life and work; also a number of articles in Tate Etc. magazine including: I think if we are to do beautiful pictures, we ought to be free from family conventions and ties: Gwen and Augustus John by Virginia Ironside and David Fraser Jenkins

The National Museum of Wales has a very interesting series of articles by Neil Lebeter which look closely at Gwen John’s painting technique: it’s the tone that matters

And there is an essay on artuk.org by Catherine Jamieson: Quiet Intensity.

Books

For me, the best book on Gwen John’s art is by Cecily Langdale:

which is sadly out of print, but available at the library and there is a short article, c/o the publishers here.

My ‘highly recommended’ also goes to Alison Thomas’s “Portraits of Women: Gwen John and her forgotten contemporaries” from Polity Press, a group biography of Edna Clarke Hall, Gwen John, Ida Nettleship and Gwen Smith. Sadly again it seems to be out of print, but certainly worth tracking down.

Other books we mentioned include, Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson which is a wonderful read; Rebecca Birrell’s brand new book This Dark Country which looks at a number of artists from intriguing perspectives and has an essay on Gwen John and you just can’t get better in terms of a fictional portrait than in Margaret Forster’s Keeping the World Away!

Television

There is also an archived documentary programme (BBC, 1975) on both Gwen and Augustus John available on i-player: The Fire and the Fountain.

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As always: Happy Researching! and do let me know what else you come across, and I’ll add it in!

In the meantime: one of Gwen John’s beautiful flower paintings,

“Vase of Flowers” [1910s; National Library of Wales; artuk.org]

John, Gwen; Vase of Flowers; Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/vase-of-flowers-120669

All best wishes, The Common Viewer

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About TheCommonViewer

Independent Researcher: gently exploring the art and artists of early 20th century Britain (with forays elsewhere, in particular Russian Art History); the Art, Books & History Group meets monthly in Southend-on-Sea Twitter: @TheCommonViewer

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