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Augustus John

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Augustus John
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{{EngvarB|date=July 2016}}{{Use dmy dates|date=July 2016}}







factoids
| birth_place = Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Walesdf=yes10|31}} (aged 83)| death_place = Fordingbridge, Hampshire, EnglandWelsh people>Welsh| field = painter| training = | movement = Post-Impressionism| works = | patrons = | awards = Order of MeritRoyal Academician}}Augustus Edwin John {{postnominals|country=GBR|OM|RA}} (4 January 1878 – 31 October 1961) was a Welsh painter, draughtsman, and etcher. For a short time around 1910, he was an important exponent of Post-Impressionism in the United Kingdom. He was the brother of the painter Gwen John."Augustus was celebrated first for his brilliant figure drawings, and then for a new technique of oil sketching. His work was favourably compared in London with that of Gauguin and Matisse. He then developed a style of portraiture that was imaginative and often extravagant, catching an instantaneous attitude in his subjects."BBC Wales – Arts – Augustus John

Early life

Born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, John was the younger son and third of four children. His father was Edwin William John, a Welsh solicitor; his mother, Augusta Smith from a long line of Sussex master plumbers,Makers of Modern Culture died young when he was six, but not before inculcating a love of drawing in both Augustus and his older sister Gwen.Easton, Malcolm, and Holroyd, Michael: The Art of Augustus John, page 1. David R. Godine, 1975. At the age of seventeen he briefly attended the Tenby School of Art, then left Wales for London, studying at the Slade School of Art, University College London. He became the star pupil of drawing teacher Henry Tonks and even before his graduation he was recognised as the most talented draughtsman of his generation.As witness "The legendary Slade acclamation, 'There was a man sent from God, whose name was John'". Easton and Holroyd, page 2. His sister, Gwen was with him at the Slade and became an important artist in her own right.One of "a bevy of talented girls" there at the time. Easton and Holroyd, page 2.In 1897, John hit submerged rocks diving into the sea at Tenby, suffering a serious head injury; the lengthy convalescence that followed seems to have actually stimulated his adventurous spirit and accelerated his artistic growth.Easton and Holroyd, page 2. In 1898, he won the Slade Prize with Moses and the Brazen Serpent. John afterward studied independently in Paris where he seems to have been influenced by Puvis de Chavannes.Easton and Holroyd, page 13.
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- Augustus John - Yeats.jpg -
William Butler Yeats|W.B. Yeats
(1907) The need to support Ida Nettleship (1877–1907), whom he married in 1901, led him to accept a post teaching art at the University of Liverpool.(File:Grace Westry by Augustus John 1897.jpg|thumb|Chalk drawing of Grace Westry by Augustus John 1897)

North Wales

Augustus John and his student James Dickson Innes spent two years painting in the Arenig valley around 1910, especially the mountain Arenig Fawr. In 2011 this period was made the subject of a BBC documentary titled The Mountain That Had to Be Painted.BBC Four, 18 May 2011, The Mountain that had to be Painted.

Provence

Some time in 1910, John fell in love with the town of Martigues, in Provence, located halfway between Arles and Marseilles, and first seen from a train en route to Italy.Easton and Holroyd, page 64. John wrote that Provence "had been for years the goal of my dreams" and Martigues was the town for which he felt the greatest affection. "With a feeling that I was going to find what I was seeking, an anchorage at last, I returned from Marseilles, and, changing at Pas des Lanciers, took the little railway which leads to Martigues. On arriving my premonition proved correct: there was no need to seek further."From the Tate Collection The connection with Provence continued until 1928, by which time John felt the town had lost its simple charm, and he sold his home there.Easton and Holroyd, page 184.He was, throughout his life, particularly interested in the Romani people (whom he referred to as "Gypsies"), and sought them out on his frequent travels around the United Kingdom and Europe. For a time, shortly after his marriage, he and his family, which included his wife Ida, mistress Dorothy (Dorelia) McNeill, and John's children by both women, travelled in a caravan, in gypsy fashion.Easton and Holroyd, pages 12–13. Later on he became the President of the Gypsy Lore Society, a position he held from 1937 until his death in 1961.WEB,weblink Archived copy, 2010-07-28, yes,weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20100129033428weblink">weblink 29 January 2010,

War

During World War I, he was attached to the Canadian forces as a war artist and made a number of memorable portraits of Canadian infantrymen. The end result was to have been a huge mural for Lord Beaverbrook and the sketches and cartoon for this suggest that it might have become his greatest large-scale work. However, like so many of his monumental conceptions, it was never completed. As a war artist, he was allowed to keep his facial hair and therefore, he and King George V were the only Army officers in the Allied forces to have a beard, apart from pioneer sergeants and those who were allowed unshaven for medical reasons.Shone, Richard, Augustus John, page 15. Phaidon, 1979. After two months in France he was sent home in disgrace after taking part in a brawl.'Woman Smiling', BBC Lord Beaverbrook, whose intervention saved John from a court-martial, sent him back to France where he produced studies for a proposed Canadian War Memorial picture, although the only major work to result from the experience was Fraternity.Easton and Holroyd, pages 26, 162. In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge finally unveiled this mural at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. This unfinished painting, The Canadians Opposite Lens, is 12 feet high by 40 feet long."Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will unveil the Canadians Opposite Lens, the latest Canadian War Museum acquisition {{webarchive|url=https://web.archive.org/web/20110707143647weblink |date=7 July 2011 }}", press release via Canada NewsWire, 2 July 2011.

Portraits

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- Augustus John mit Tallulah.jpg -
Augustus John with Tallulah Bankhead and her portrait (1929)
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- Augustus John - TE Lawrence.jpg -
T. E. Lawrence|Colonel T. E. Lawrence
(1919)Although well-known early in the century for his drawings and etchings, the bulk of John's later work consisted of portraits, some of the best of which were of his two wives and his children. He was known for the psychological insight of his portraits, many of which were considered "cruel" for the truth of the depiction. Lord Leverhulme was so upset with his portrait that he cut out the head (since only that part of the image could easily be hidden in his vault) but when the remainder of the picture was returned by error to John there was an international outcry over the desecration.James Joyce complained that John's drawings of him "failed to represent accurately the lower part of his face", and commenting on Lady Ottoline Morrell's determination to hang her portrait in her drawing-room, John observed "Whatever she may have lacked, it wasn't courage." Easton and Holroyd, pages 186, 82.By the 1920s John was Britain's leading portrait painter. John painted many distinguished contemporaries, including T. E. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Lady Gregory, Tallulah Bankhead, George Bernard Shaw, the cellist Guilhermina Suggia, the Marchesa Casati and Elizabeth Bibesco. Perhaps his most famous portrait is of his fellow-countryman, Dylan Thomas, whom he introduced to Caitlin Macnamara, his sometime lover who later became Thomas' wife.WEB,weblink Cailtin Thomas, BBC, 2 May 2010, Portraits of Dylan Thomas by John are held by the National Museum Wales and the National Portrait Gallery. WEB, Acquisitions of the month: August-September 2018,weblink Apollo Magazine, It was said that after the war his powers diminished as his bravura technique became sketchier.Easton and Holroyd, page 24. One critic has claimed that "the painterly brilliance of his early work degenerated into flashiness and bombast, and the second half of his long career added little to his achievement." However, from time to time his inspiration returned, as it did on a trip to Jamaica in 1937.The Two Jamaican Girls, by Augustus John (1878–1961) The works done in Jamaica between March and May 1937 evidence a resurgence of his powers, and amounted to "the St. Martin's summer of his creative genius".Easton and Holroyd, page 194.Of his method for painting portraits John explained:Easton and Holroyd, page 156.{{cquote|Make a puddle of paint on your palette consisting of the predominant colour of your model's face and ranging from dark to light. Having sketched the features, being most careful of the proportions, apply a skin of paint from your preparation, only varying the mixture with enough red for the lips and cheeks and grey for the eyeballs. The latter will need touches of white and probably some blue, black, brown, or green. If you stick to your puddle (assuming that it was correctly prepared), your portrait should be finished in an hour or so, ''and be ready for obliteration before the paint dries, when you start afresh.}}

Family

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- Augustus John - The Two Jamaican Girls.jpg -
The Two Jamaican Girls (ca. 1937)
(File:Augustus John 2.jpg|thumb|Augustus John poses for the American press on board a ship.)Early in 1901, he married his first wife, Ida Nettleship (1877–1907); the couple had five children. After her death in 1907, his mistress Dorothy "Dorelia" McNeill, a Bohemian style icon, became his partner; they lived together most of the time from 1904 until his death and had two children, but never marriedweblink One of his sons (by his first wife) was the prominent British Admiral and First Sea Lord Sir Caspar John. His daughter Vivien John (1915–1994) was a notable painter.Obituary: Vivien JohnBy Ian Fleming's widowed mother, Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming, {{née}} Rose, he had a daughter, Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999), who became a noted cellist. Another of his sons, by Mavis de Vere Cole, wife of the prankster Horace de Vere Cole, is the television director Tristan de Vere Cole. His son Romilly (1906–1986) was in the RAF, briefly a civil servant, then a poet, author and an amateur physicist. Poppet (1912–1997), John's daughter by Dorothy, married the Dutch painter Willem Jilts Pol (1905–1988). Willem Pol's daughter Talitha (1940–1971) by an earlier marriage (i.e. step-granddaughter of both Augustus and Dorothy), a fashion icon of 1960s London, married John Paul Getty Jr.. His daughter Gwyneth Johnstone (1915–2010), by musician Nora Brownsword, was an artist.Gwyneth Johnstone obituary (The Guardian, 6 January 2011). Augustus John's promiscuity gave rise to rumours that he had fathered as many as 100 children.Augustus John offspring

Later life

(File:Augustus John by Reginald Gray.jpg|thumb|right| Augustus John by Reginald Gray, at Royal Academy London in 1960 (collection Mr. Derry O'Sullivan. Paris))In later life, John wrote two volumes of autobiography, Chiaroscuro (1952) and Finishing Touches (1964).Easton and Holroyd, pages 41–2. 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, Hampshire in 1961, his last work being a studio mural in three parts, the left hand of which showed a Falstaffian figure of a French peasant in a yellow waistcoat playing a hurdy-gurdy while coming down a village street. It was Augustus John's final wave goodbye.He joined the Peace Pledge Union as a pacifist in the 1950s, and was a founder member of the Committee of 100. On 17 September 1961, just over a month before his death, he joined the Committee of 100's anti-nuclear weapons demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London. At the time, his son, Admiral Sir Caspar John was First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. He died at Fordingbridge, aged 83.BOOK, Augustus John, Malcolm Easton, University of Hull, Augustus John: portraits of the artist's family,weblink 1970, University of Hull, 11, He is said to have been the model for the bohemian painter depicted in Joyce Cary's novel The Horse's Mouth, which was later made into a 1958 film of the same name with Alec Guinness in the lead role.Michael Holroyd published a biography of John in 1975 and it is a mark of the public's continued interest in the painter that Holroyd published a new version of the biography in 1996.

Honours

He became a leader of the New English Art Club, where he chiefly exhibited. With his vivid manner of portraiture and his ability to catch unerringly some striking and usually unfamiliar aspect of his subject, he superseded Sargent as England's fashionable portrait painter. In 1921 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and elected a full R.A. in 1928. He was named to the Order of Merit by King George VI in 1942. He was a trustee of the Tate Gallery from 1933 to 1941, and President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters from 1948 to 1953.

Bibliography

  • Augustus John, Chiaroscuro - Fragments of Autobiography, Readers Union / Jonathan Cape, London, 1954.
  • Augustus John, Finishing Touches, edited and introduced by Daniel George, Readers Union / Jonathan Cape, London 1966.
  • Michael Holroyd, Augustus John: The New Biography, Chatto & Windus, 1996.

See also

References

{{Reflist}}

External links

{{Commons category|Augustus John}}{{EB1922 Poster|John, Augustus Edwyn|Augustus John}} {{Camden Town Group}}{{Authority control}}

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