Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris

Thames & Hudson. Jul. 2023. 272p. ISBN 9780500025574. $39.95. BIOG
This readable biography of early 20th-century English painter Gwen John (1876–1939) from art historian Foster (Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries) overturns the myth of John as a recluse. In 1894, John moved from her hometown in West Wales to study at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, where her brother Augustus also studied. However, after touring France, she decided to settle in Paris in 1904, where she remained for the rest of her life to pursue art, living life on her own terms, shunning the traditional roles of women. She modeled for renowned sculptor Auguste Rodin and became his mistress for nearly 10 years while living alone and creating art. However, Foster writes, she was not a solitary figure and actively engaged in the cultural climate of the time, meeting people such as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke and her artist peers including Henri Matisse, Maurice Denis, and Pablo Picasso. With the interest of American collector John Quinn in her work, John’s art was shown in New York exhibitions including the important Armory Show of 1913. By the end of her life, she also had shown in major exhibitions in Paris.
VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in women artists and modern art.
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