- 1903-1931 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Guarded and filed at NLW.
Name of creator
Augustus Edwin John, artist, was born at Tenby, Pembrokeshire, on 4 January 1878. He studied at the Slade School in London between 1894 and 1899. A diving accident in 1897 caused severe head injuries, reputedly affecting his personality and painting style. He married Ida Nettleship in 1901 and they had five children. At about the same time, he was appointed to teach art at the University of Liverpool, where he was taught the Romani language. Periods of travelling throughout England and Wales in a gypsy caravan inspired much of his work before World War 1. In 1902, he met Dorothy MacNeill, giving her the Romani name Dorelia. She became his most important model and lifelong inspiration; she moved to Paris with Augustus's sister, the artist Gwen John, the following year. Augustus based himself mainly in Paris in 1906-1907. After Ida's death in 1907, Dorelia became John's partner (they never formally married). They had four children together, both before and after Ida's death. His early period of work was characterised by drawings from life, notably of contemporaries including Ida and Dorelia and his sisters, as well as portraits in oils influenced by the Old Masters and an experimental series of etchings. He was elected President of the National Portrait Gallery in 1914. During World War 1 he spent a brief time in France, employed by the Canadian government as a war artist, and was official artist at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. After a period of painting landscapes and employing a more modern impressionistic idiom, he became increasingly successful as a portrait painter. His subjects included Thomas Hardy, T. E. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, and David Lloyd George. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1928, resigned in 1938, and was re-elected in 1940. He was elected President of the Royal Cambrian Academy of Art in 1934 and President of the Gypsy Lore Society in 1938. In 1942 he was awarded the Order of Merit for services to art. He died at Fryern Court, Hampshire, his home since 1927, in 1961.
Name of creator
Name of creator
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.
Name of creator
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Ms Sally Stephen, granddaughter of John and Margaret Sampson; Bristol; Donation; October 1996; A1996/141.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Some fifty letters and cards, 1903-1931, to Margaret Sampson (née Sprunt), wife of Dr John Sampson (1862-1931), Librarian of the University of Liverpool, from Augustus John, 1903-1931 (ff. 1-25 verso), his first wife Ida John (née Nettleship), 1903-1906 (ff. 30-85), and his sister Gwen John, 1911-1913 (ff. 26-29). The letters contain mainly family and personal news.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
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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
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
The contents are indexed in greater detail in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales, vol. 9 (Aberystwyth, 2003).
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Title based on contents.
Preferred citation: NLW MS 23549C.
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CAIRS System Control Number
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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
Description compiled by Bethan Ifans for the retrospective conversion project of NLW MSS;