Augustus John

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Augustus Edwin John 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.

"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."[1]


Life and work


John was born at Tenby in Pembrokeshire, the younger son and third of four children in his family. His father was Edwin William John, a Welsh solicitor; his mother, Augusta Smith from a long line of Sussex plumbers,[2] died young when he was six, but not before inculcating a love of drawing in both Augustus and his older sister Gwen.[3] At the age of seventeen he briefly attended the Tenby School of Art, then studied at the Slade School of Art UCL in London (his sister, Gwen, was with him at the Slade and became an important artist in her own right),[4] where he became the star pupil of drawing teacher Henry Tonks, and even before his graduation was recognized as the most talented draughtsman of his generation.[5]

In the summer of 1897, John was seriously injured while swimming, and the lengthy convalescence that followed seems to have actually stimulated his adventurous spirit and accelerated his artistic growth.[6] 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.[7]

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