Augustus Edwin John


John lays the foundation stone at the Chenil Galleries
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Name:Augustus Edwin John

Dates:1878 - 1961


Address: 28 Mallord Street, SW3

Dates at address:1914 - 1929


John was raised at Tenby by his father, whose paranoid fear of gypsies kidnapping his children inspired a lifelong interest in gypsy scenes in John’s paintings. Educated at Slade School of Fine Art with Orpen, Rothenstein and his sister Gwen, legend states John was a shy, uninspiring painter. This apparently changed when he was knocked unconscious in a swimming accident. On reviving John had miraculously learnt to paint and become the Bohemians Bohemian, wild beard and all. He never refuted the tale. He married Ida Nettleship in 1901.

A brilliant painter his speciality was portraits, including paintings of Shaw, Hardy and Dylan Thomas. Most famously he painted Queen Elizabeth, wife to George VI, but failed to attend the first sitting, instead telegramming to explain he “was suffering from the influence.” Serving as war artist for the Canadian war records office in 1917 he patrolled the Somme and Vimy Ridge. As famous for his relationship with his contemporaries as for his own work, John discovered many of the early Twentieth centuries great talents. With Orpen he founded the Chelsea Art School in 1903. He also owned the Chenil Galleries from 1910, exhibiting new artists like Gill, Fry and Dobson.

One of Chelsea’s most flamboyant residents, John dominated the social scene. Genial, loud and excitable he patrolled Chelsea with his clique and was a regular at the Café Royal. His house in Mallord Street was built by Robert von Hoff and was a copy of Rembrandt’s Amsterdam house. It was later home to Gracie Fields.

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