TABLE OF CONTENTS
Augustus John Art Collection--Item List
An Inventory of His Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Augustus Edwin John was born January 4, 1878, at Tenby, Pembrokeshire, to Edwin William John and Augusta Smith. In 1894 he began four years of studies at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he worked under Henry Tonks and Frederick Brown. During his time at the Slade School, John also studied the works of the Old Masters at the National Gallery. After suffering a head injury while swimming at Pembrokeshire in 1897, the quality of John's artwork, as well as his appearance and personality, changed. His methodical style became freer and bolder, and his work started to gain notice. In 1898, John won the Slade Prize for his Moses and the Brazen Serpent.
John left the Slade School in 1898, and he held his first one-man exhibition in 1899 at the Carfax Gallery in London. Later that same year he traveled on the continent, part of the time with a group consisting of the artist brothers Sir William Rothenstein and Albert Rutherston, William Orpen, Sir Charles Conder, and Ida Nettleship (a fellow Slade student). In France, he was influenced by the work of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Pablo Picasso.
In 1901 John married Ida Nettleship, and he took a position as an art instructor at the University of Liverpool. Here he produced many etchings, and also befriended the University Librarian, John Sampson, an authority on gypsies. John became interested in gypsy culture; he later traveled with gypsies and learned their language and customs.
In 1902 John moved to a studio space in London, where he started to paint more portraits in order to support his growing family. That same year, he also began a relationship with Dorothy McNeill (to whom he gave the gypsy name Dorelia), a friend of his sister, Gwen John. After Ida's death in childbirth in 1907, Dorelia became the artist's wife in all but name. Also in 1907 he met James Dickson Innes, another Welsh painter with whom he traveled in Wales. It was this friendship that inspired John to paint landscapes in a more modern and impressionistic style. While John's oil paintings still showed the influence of Rubens and other Old Masters, his strongest works during this time were his drawings.
After World War I, John became best known for his portraits of literary and society figures, in part because there was a great demand for his portraits, but also because he needed the income. As a result, John had little time to work on the large-scale imaginative paintings in which he was more interested.
In his later life, Augustus John wrote two autobiographical books, Chiaroscuro: Fragments of Autobiography (1952) and Finishing Touches (1964, published posthumously). He died October 31, 1961, in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.
The Augustus John Art Collection consists of ten portraits on paper (5 drawings, 3 etchings, and 2 reproductive prints) of well known English contemporaries of John. These works are arranged alphabetically by subject.
The Art Collection also has an additional sketch by John, a portrait of Nancy Cunard drawn on a piece of table cloth, that is part of the Nancy Cunard Art Collection. The Manuscripts Collection holds papers of Augustus John, including letters to Dora Carrington, Edward Gordon Craig, and Ottoline Morrell.
A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art mateials to the Reading Room.
Purchases (R938, R1252, R3785, R4731, R5180) and gift (R2767)
Helen Young, 1997