Augustus John is a 20th-century British artist whose personal life was a constant subject of discussion in London’s high society for many years.
Augustus John (January 4, 1878 – October 31, 1961) – the famous British artist of the twentieth century, a prominent representative of post-impressionism. He was famous for painting portraits of his contemporaries, although among the best masterpieces of his work there are many paintings in the nude and landscape genre.
Augustus John enjoyed great respect in British society and during his lifetime was recognized as a great classic of British painting. For many years he was active in the anti-war movement and held the prestigious position of Chairman of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
Augustus John was born on January 4, 1878 in the small Welsh town of Tenby. He was the third child in the family of a civil servant and a housewife. The boy lost his mother early, she died when the future artist was only six years old, but managed to instill in Augustus and his older sister Gwen a love of drawing.
While still in elementary school, John began attending private painting lessons. Having received a certificate of secondary education, he left his native land and went to London. A talented young man entered the capital’s university college at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, where, under the guidance of Professor Henry Tonks, he achieved brilliant academic success. Then Augustus met his future wife, Ida Nettleship, who was his classmate.
In 1898, the painter won the right to receive a scholarship for further studies and went to Paris. Over the next three years, John was a student at the private art academy of Colarossi, and also worked as an assistant in the workshop of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.
Upon his return to England in January 1901, Augustus John married Ida Nettleship. A few months later he was offered a teaching position at Liverpool University College. The newlyweds moved to this city and it was here that their first child, son David, was born.
Artist’s personal life
In early 1903, John quit his job in Liverpool and moved to London with his family. In March, their second son Kaspar was born here, after which the young father fell desperately in love with his model Dorothea McNeil, but did not leave his wife and children. With the consent of his wife, the mistress began to live with them, and over the next four years, Augustus became a father five more times. Two children were given to him by Dorothea, and three more by Ida, who died immediately after the birth of the last baby in 1907.
After burying his wife, John continued to live with his mistress in a civil marriage and was never officially married again. Nevertheless, Dorothea gave birth to two more children from him and conscientiously helped raise the five sons of Ida. At the same time, the loving artist was fond of other women throughout his life. Augustus’s promiscuity has been a topic of discussion in London’s high society for many years.
At the beginning of his creative career, John became interested in the culture of the gypsies and spent a lot of time with his wife and mistress in the circle of these free people, creating numerous sketches of landscapes, portraits and works of everyday genre. But in 1910, Augustus, together with his friend William Orpen, opened a private school in London to train young artists.
last years of life
Until the First World War, the painter annually spent the summer months in the south of France in the city of Martigues, where he painted many beautiful paintings. But with the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, he was drafted into the army, and John, as a field artist, created dozens of portraits of ordinary soldiers. Masterfully executed paintings quickly brought the author wide fame. By the early 1920s he had become a leading British portrait painter.
The London and New York academies elected him an honorary member, and personal exhibitions of the master’s works were very popular with the public.
Until the end of his life, the brilliant painter worked in his workshop in the town of Foldingbridge in the south of England. And on October 31, 1961, Augustus John died in his own home at the age of 83. The remains of the artist were buried in the local cemetery. On the banks of the River Avon, the inhabitants of Foldingbridge erected a bronze monument to the great master of painting.