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Gwen John Paperback – 2 May 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (2 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009926756X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099267560
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 628,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Born in 1876, Gwen John is one of the "modern Victorians", a woman Whose life continues to challenge her biographers. "The real mystery of Gwen John's life," as Sue Roe points out at the beginning of Gwen John, "may turn out to have less to do with her own elusiveness than with the problem of why we find it so difficult to imagine the life-style and frame of mind of a woman artist living alone." Drawing on a wide range of unpublished letters, diaries and notebooks, Roe attempts to describe both: the lifestyle--bohemian, roaming, daring--and the frame of mind--at once rebellious and fragile--of one of the most important artists of the 20th century. As if in imitation of that life, Gwen John proceeds at (sometimes breathless) speed. Roe is close to her subject, and she helps her readers to get closer. Through numerous well-chosen quotations, John's voice is heard throughout the book. Speaking of her celebrated relationship with Rodin, for example (in which eroticism gives rise to a desire for conformity: "She just wanted to be his wife"), or of her powerful identification between life and work ("Your life can still be a work of art"). Over and over again, John painted women in rooms: a theme which is reflected through Roe's tracking of John from Paris to London to Meudon--a series of lodgings and rooms in which John carves out a space in which she can live and paint. It's a fascinating, if sometimes disjointed, story in which Gwen John remains a figure with interiors--mapped onto the remarkable body of work that Roe opens up for a new audience. --Vicky Lebeau --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

In 1942, at the height of his fame, Augustus John predicted that "50 years after my death I shall be remembered as Gwen John's brother". 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. She would always be 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 20th-century Paris and embarked on a long, intense, love affair with France's most legendary artistic figure, the sculptor Rodin. Moving among Symbolist poets and post-Impressionist painters, later she turned increasingly to religion, achieving a form of serenity which masked her inner turbulence, and creating her haunting paintings--delicate and 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 23 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
Gwen John, born in 1876, older sister of Augustus John, model and muse of Rodin, went to the Slade School of Fine Art in 1895, on the recommendation of her brother who had begun his studies there the year before. At the Slade, where she was taught by the renowned Henry Tonks and Frederick Brown, her early drawings showed fine draughtsmanship, but her promise and talent were held back by self-deprecation - after all it was her brother, Augustus, who was expected to be the more talented of the two. Although Gwen's John's life in her later years, gave rise to it being generally thought that she was a modest, solitary and reclusive person (and, indeed, in some ways she was), one of Sue Roe's aims in this biography is to show that this was not necessarily the case and that Gwen could be daring, defiant and highly original.

Shortly after leaving the Slade, Gwen went with Ida Nettleship (later to become Augustus' wife) to Paris, where she spent six months being taught by Whistler at the Academie Carmen. She returned to England in 1899 and in 1900 she started to exhibit her work at the New English Art Club. In 1902, Gwen met Dorothy (Dorelia) McNeill (later to become Augustus' life-long partner) a beautiful and unorthodox woman who fascinated Gwen and appealed to the more reckless side of her nature. In 1903 Gwen announced her plan to walk from Bordeaux to Rome, accompanied by Dorelia and although her family thought she was mad, both she and Dorelia were not to be dissuaded. From Bordeaux they walked along the route of the River Garonne, sleeping in haystacks under the stars and living on bread, grapes and beer. They got as far as Toulouse and then made the decision to change direction and make for Paris.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. F. Harrison on 7 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sue Roe has clearly read lots of Gwen John's letters, and even visited many of the places that were important to Gwen John. The book is informative about the people around her who were important to her, too. Yet at the same time, it's difficult to gain any sense of why Gwen John chose to do the things she did: become an artist, live in France for most of her life, for example. It may be that there simply isn't any evidence (from her letters, for example) that would answer these questions. Overall I found the book factually informative, but it still left me wondering what Gwen John was really like.
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Format: Hardcover
A very thoroughly research life of Gwen John. Writing style sometimes a little dry and repetitious and it is not clear what political framework the author is coming from.
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By Mr Patrick Jones on 23 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
excellent
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