Artists in the Collection

Augustus John

Born 1878, Tenby, Wales
Died 1961, Fordingbridge, England

The Welsh born artist, Augustus John, was considered one of the greatest artists of his generation. By the age of twenty-five he was among the most famous artists in Britain, celebrated both for his artistic talent and his bohemian lifestyle.
Augustus John was a great friend of the Irish artist, William Orpen, whom he had met while they were both students at the Slade School of Art. In 1907, during a visit to Ireland with his friend Orpen, John stayed with Lady Gregory at Coole Park.
John’s painting ‘Loving Companions’ (1912) was originally in the collection of the Irish-American art patron John Quinn. Quinn’s first introduction to John was through W.B. Yeats. While at Coole, he drew a portrait of W. B. Yeats for the frontispiece to a collected edition of his poems. Quinn bought the drawing and soon became one of John’s greatest patrons, eventually amassing a collection of over seventy of his works.
On John’s advice Quinn became interested in more avant-garde European art and also began to collect the work of his reclusive sister Gwen John. Around 1912, tensions between the two men began to surface and Quinn soon switched his attentions to more modernist artists including Picasso and Brancusi.

During his second trip to Ireland in 1915, John was a guest of Robert Gregory at Coole and also travelled to Galway were he executed a number of drawings of local people, including sketches for the triptych ‘Galway’, now in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London. ‘Galway’ was the largest mural painting that John was ever to produce and he embarked on it with the intention of creating ‘a vast picture synthesizing all that’s fine and characteristic in Galway City – a grand marshalling of the elements’.