Out of the shadows and into the limelight - revealing, lively new biography of the sensual, quietly rebellious woman (sister of Augustus John and lover of Rodin) who as an unmistakeably great artist in her own right.
In 1942, at the height of his fame, Augustus John predicted that 'fifty years from now I shall be known as the brother of Gwen John'. Gwen John (1876 - 1939) is indeed now recognised as a great artistic innovator, yet for years her life remained shrouded in the myth of the solitary recluse. Born in Pembrokeshire, Gwen followed her brother to the Slade. Her future was bound up with Augustus, his women and his coteries, yet she was also daring and highly original, living determinedly in her own way. Defiant yet shy, she painted and modelled amid the Bohemian circles of early twentieth-century Paris and embarked on a long, intense love affair with France's most legendary artistic figure, the sculptor Rodin. A friend of Symbolist poets and post-Impressionist painters, later she turned increasingly to religion, achieving a deep serenity which masked her inner turbulence, creating her haunting paintings - delicate, austere, restrained and still. Based on her lively and passionate unpublished letters and copiously illustrated, this vivid new biography challenges our prejudices about the ways we evaluate women artists and finally uncovers the life of this ardent and complicated personality, one of the finest artists of her day.
“Roe has drawn on much new material...to great effect. She reveals with painful acuity the unshakeable internal logic of sexual obsession, conveying it in fluent novelistic style. She is also an astute, if traditional, art critic”