Tuesday, 11 January 2011
I knew very little about Gwen John other than that I had heard somewhere that her brother, Augustus John, also a painter and in his time much more highly regarded, is reported to have said that fifty years after his death he would be known only as the brother of Gwen John. I'm not certain that has entirely come to pass, but doing some background research to accompany the Forster book, Gwen John does seem to be much more highly thought of now than was ever the case in her life time.
The portrait that Forster draws of Gwen John is certainly that of a woman whose life was marked by turbulence. At one point one of her friends reflects that
after a mere hour in her company she felt drained by the emotional demands made on her, that urgent need for constant sympathy which was so exhausting to give. And Gwen, in that respect, gave little in return.
My heart lurched when I read that because I used to work with someone who was exactly the same and even the memory made me want to put the book down and run away.
I am fascinated that a woman whose own life was apparently so permeated by strong, even violent, emotions could paint in a way that transmits such feelings of peace to me and at some point during the year I would like to find out more about her. We have a new member of staff in the gallery, who used to work for the museum in Wales where many of John's works are now on show. I shall have to try and waylay her in the coffee lounge and get her talking on the subject. There is no point in having experts about the place and not making use of them.
Posted by Ann at 18:00