Augustus Edwin John RA was born in Pemrokeshire in 1878, and studied at the Slade School in the 1890s. After injuring his head diving into the sea whilst on holiday in 1897, his timid personality appeared to have been shaken off and John became a dramatically changed figure, described by Wyndham Lewis as ‘a great man of action into whose hands the fairies had placed a paintbrush instead of a sword’.
After becoming well-known for his drawings and etchings, for a short time around 1910 he was an important exponent of Post-Impressionism in the United Kingdom. Compared with Gauguin and Matisse, John developed a style of portraiture that was imaginative and often extravagant, becoming recognised as one of the most talented draughtsmen of his generation.
By the 1920s John was Britain's leading portrait artist, painting many distinguished contemporaries including TE Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, WB Yeats, Aleister Crowley, George Bernard Shaw, and fellow-countryman Dylan Thomas. The Royal Academy mounted a huge show of his work in 1954, seven years before his death in 1961.
Augustus John was elected a full RA in 1928 and named to the Order of Merit by King George VI in 1942. He was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1933–41, and President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters from 1948–53.
Amongst many national collections, John’s work is held by the Bank of England Museum, the Laing Gallery, Newcastle, the Government Art Collection, Edinburgh College of Art, Leeds Art Gallery, and the Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow.
Exhibitions at Gallagher & Turner:
101 Years of British Art
15 September - 21 October 2017