File NLW MS 23850D. - Gwen John letters,

Identity area

Reference code

NLW MS 23850D.


Gwen John letters,


  • 1920-1969 / (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

95 ff. Guarded and filed at NLW.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Gwendolen Mary (Gwen) John, painter, was born in Haverfordwest, the elder sister of the artist Augustus John. In 1895 she entered the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where her fellow students included Ursula Tyrwhitt and Ida Nettleship (afterwards wife of Augustus John). In 1904 John settled permanently in Paris. In the same year she met the sculptor Auguste Rodin, with whom she had a stormy relationship. She was introduced by Augustus to the American lawyer and collector John Quinn and his companion Jeanne Robert Foster. Amongst her circle of acquaintances was the revolutionary, feminist and actress Maud Gonne and Dorelia (formerly Dorothy) McNeill, who became Augustus's lifelong companion. In 1913, John was received into the Catholic church and thereafter produced many ecclesiastically-themed paintings. In her later years she formed an attachment to the Russian-Jewish émigré Véra Oumançoff, who lived near John in the Paris suburb of Meudon. It is believed that John ceased to produce any works of art after about 1933. Following John's death her artistic reputation was revived by numerous exhibitions both in Britain and the United States, the first taking place in London in 1946. Her collected works are divided between public collections and the National Museum and Gallery in Cardiff; those of her works owned by John Quinn remained in the United States.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Twenty-two letters, 1920-1925, from Gwen John, comprising one to her American patron, John Quinn, 18 December 1921 (ff. 48-50), and the remainder to his mistress, Jeanne Robert Foster, 1920-1925 (ff. 1-46), concerning personal matters and business; together with some eight letters from Foster to Quinn, 1920-1923, mainly relating to Gwen John (ff. 51-63, 67-95).
Also included is a photograph of Gwen John with Jeanne Robert Foster and Henri Pierre Roché in Paris, 1922, presented by Foster to Michael Holroyd in 1969 (f. 47); a typescript copy [?by Holroyd] of Foster's letter and notes on ff. 56-63 (ff. 64-65); and a related note from Foster to Holroyd, 3 April 1969 (f. 66). The letters contain references to John Quinn (ff. 5, 8, 10 verso, 15), Augustus John (ff. 44, 72, 73-74), Pablo Picasso (f. 49), Paul Deschanel (f. 53), the death of the actress Olive Thomas (f. 54), Henri Matisse (ff. 54, 74), Jan Masaryk (f. 70), Arthur Symons (ff. 73-74), Marie Laurencin (ff. 75, 85-86), Ezra Pound (ff. 83, 86-87) and Henri Pierre Roché (f. 93). For extracts from a number of the letters see Sue Roe, Gwen John: A Life (London, 2001), pp. 204-242 passim.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Arranged at NLW as follows: Gwen John letters; Jeanne Robert Foster letters.

Conditions of access and use area

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Conditions governing reproduction

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Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Tate Gallery Archive (TAM 21C microfiche);

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For the other half of the correspondence between Gwen John and Jeanne Foster see NLW MS 22305C, ff. 38-85; for letters from Foster to Michael Holroyd see NLW, Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers 2/4; for Gwen John's correspondence with John Quinn see NLW MS 22309C, ff. 1-133, NLW Facs 975 and NLW, Michael Holroyd (Augustus John) Research Papers 12/1-2.

Related descriptions

Publication note

Sue Roe, Gwen John: A Life (London, 2001) makes use of microfiche copies of the letters held by the Tate Gallery Archive.

Notes area


Title based on contents.


Letter and notes by Jeanne Foster (ff. 56-63) probably misplaced; should be between ff. 81 and 82.


Preferred citation: NLW MS 23850D.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion




Accession area