Gwendolyn John (1876- 1939) was a Welsh artist, best known for portraits of herself and other women. Gwen lived much of her life in the shadow of her brother, the artist Augustus John, but her works today are recognized and valued in their own right.
Gwen studied at the Slade School of Art from 1895 to 1898, and then went on to Paris, where she studied at the Academie Carmen under James McNeill Whistler.
In 1904, after a stay in London, Gwen moved to Paris with her friend Dorelia McNeill. She began working as an artist’s model, mostly for American and British female artists, but also for the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Gwen and Rodin grew close, and she became his mistress. During this time, John often painted portraits and empty interiors.
In addition to financial support and encouragement from Rodin, John had an enthusiastic patron in John Quinn, who bought most of her work between 1920 and 1924. In 1911, Gwen moved outside of Paris to Meudon, where she built a studio near Rodin’s. When her affair with Rodin was over in 1913, John converted to Roman Catholicism, a decision that informed much of her later artwork. She painted a series of nuns’ portraits and small figure drawings of the congregation at her church.
As she grew older, John became more averse to exhibiting her work, and her productivity declined sharply in the last decade of her life. The few works produced in her late years were often tiny sketches, only a few square inches, showing an increasing exploration in abstraction. John died in 1939 in Dieppe.