Fonds GB 0210 MSGJOHN - Gwen John manuscripts

Identity area

Reference code



Gwen John manuscripts


  • 1880-1972 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

47 volumes.

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Gwendolen Mary (Gwen) John (1876-1939), painter, was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. She was the sister of fellow artist Augustus John (1878-1961). Between 1895 and 1898 she was a pupil at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, alongside her brother. During her time there she befriended other female artists including Ursula Tyrwhitt and Ida Nettleship, who later married Augustus. She studied at the Academie Carmen in Paris in 1898 and settled permanently in Paris from 1904. In the same year she met, and began a stormy relationship with, the sculptor Auguste Rodin. She was introduced by Augustus to the American lawyer and collector John Quinn and his companion Jeanne Robert Foster. Amongst her circle of friends was the revolutionary, feminist and actress Maud Gonne and Dorelia McNeill, who became Augustus's lifelong companion. In her later years she formed an attachment to the Russian-Jewish émigré Véra Oumançoff, who lived near her in the Paris suburb of Meudon. The majority of her paintings were of women or girls and, from 1913 when she was received into the Catholic church, ecclesiastically-themed works. She was exhibited in Paris, London and New York. It is believed that she ceased to produce any works of art after about 1933. Gwen John died in Dieppe, France, in 1939.
Her nephew Edwin John (1905-1978), son of Augustus, was the chief executor of her will. Following John's death her artistic reputation was revived by numerous exhibitions both in Britain and the United States, beginning with the memorial exhibition at the Matthiesen Gallery, London, in 1946.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

NLW MS 22155B: Sotheby's; London; Purchased at auction, lot 267; 18 December 1985.
NLW MSS 22276-22318: Mr Ben John and Miss Sara John, son and daughter of Gwen John's nephew Edwin John; Purchase (partly with funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund); 1984 & 1987.
NLW MSS 23508-23510: Mr Ben John, son of Gwen John's nephew Edwin John; Longtown, Hereford; Purchase; 1996.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Papers and correspondence, 1880-1972, of or relating to the artist Gwen John and including letters and diaries, exercise books and other notebooks, and sketches; together with correspondence and other papers relating to the estate of Gwen John, and photographs found amongst her papers after her death.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Arranged according to NLW MSS reference numbers: NLW MSS 22155B, 22276-22318, 23508-23510.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their Readers' Tickets.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • Greek
  • Romany
  • Welsh

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, French, Welsh, Romany and Greek.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

The contents of NLW MSS 21701-22852 are indexed in greater detail in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 8 (Aberystwyth, 1999).
The papers and correspondence are described more fully in the catalogue Gwen John Papers (Aberystwyth, 1988).

Generated finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Four boxes of books from Gwen John's library are also in the National Library of Wales; these are listed in a typescript schedule (in Welsh), copies of which are available in the Library's reading room, in Box 1 of the collection and online (
See also NLW MSS 14930-14931C, 21468D. Exhibition catalogues, reproductions of paintings and printed materials included in the purchase of NLW MSS 23508-23510 are NLW ex 1749.

Publication note

Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Gwen John Papers at the National Library of Wales, 2nd ed. (Aberystwyth, 1995).

Notes area


Title based on contents.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

May 2009.


  • English



The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume VIII (Aberystwyth, 1999); Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, Volume IX (Aberystwyth, 2003); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on-line site, viewed 6 May 2009.

Archivist's note

Description compiled by Bethan Ifans for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS.

Accession area