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Gwen John - British Artist From Art History

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Historical Artist - Gwen John (1876 - 1939)

Sister of Augustus John, Gwen and her brother studied together at the Slade School in London. She studied under Whistler in Paris and worked as a model and formed a relationship with sculptor, Rodin. Under the patronage of and American lawyer named John Quinn, John gave up modeling to work solely on her art. She lived alone for the remainder of her life, painting small interiors and female subjects. Gwen John's work consists almost entirely of small-scale portraits and still-lifes. Her portraits (usually of anonymous sitters) favored seated women in a three-quarter length format, with their hands in their laps. John painted slowly, often returning to a theme repeatedly. She preferred painting of reduced tone and subtle colour relationships, in contrast to her brother's far more vivid palette. In addition to studio work, she made many sketches and watercolours of women and children in church. Unlike her oil paintings of solitary women, these sketches frequently depict their subjects from behind, and in groups. She also made many sketches of her cats. Aside from two etchings she drew in 1910, she made no prints. Though she was once overshadowed by her popular brother, critical opinion now tends to view Gwen as the more talented of the two. Augustus himself had predicted this reversal, saying "In 50 years' time I will be known as the brother of Gwen John. John's pictures have been placed in many public collections, with some of the best examples in the National Gallery of Wales and the Tate.

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