“Words and Pictures” Book Club (Sept. 2022): Bohemian Lives, by Amy Licence

Join us for the “Words & Pictures” book club on

Friday 23rd September, 2pm at Pebbles cafe (in the old Havens on Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss Amy Licence’s “Bohemian Lives”

All welcome for a relaxed, informal conversation over coffee & cake!


Ida Nettleship was a flamboyant Bohemian who gave up a promising artistic career to marry Augustus John. She had five pregnancies in just six years, lived with Augustus and his mistress in a menage a trois, and died exhausted in childbirth aged thirty. Ida’s story of unconventional love is equalled by two other Bohemian women of the same era: Picasso’s first love Fernande Olivier, who was prominent in the Paris art scene, and the writer Sophie Brzeska, who lived with the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, nineteen years her junior – he would die in the First World War and Sophie’s slow descent into mental instability would begin. Bohemian Lives follows the achievements and sacrifices of the three women and how their lives overlapped and contrasted, in education, childbirth, illness, marriage – and psychological disintegration. All three women had a huge influence on their more famous partner and challenged the accepted model of male-female relations of the time. At once touching and harrowing, their struggles for recognition in their own right hold a mirror up to the prejudices of an age – and what being ‘bohemian’ really meant.

Aberley publishing, 2019

A portrait of Ida Nettleship painted by Augustus John in 1902:

John, Augustus Edwin; Merikli; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/merikli-205290

A portrait of Sophie Brzeska painted by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in 1913:

Sophie Brzeska 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Purchased 1957 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00147

and Picasso’s 1909 portrait of Fernande Olivier (Stadel Museum):


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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