Now open – Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris

21 October 2023 – 14 April 2024

We are pleased to announce our presentation of the major exhibition, Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris, curated by Dr Alicia Foster, in partnership with Pallant House Gallery and the Holburne, the first retrospective of the artist Gwen John (1876–1939) in 20 years.

While the critically acclaimed show at Pallant House chronologically traced Gwen John’s 40-year career, placing her art in relation to the two cities where she chose to live and work, the Holburne show also focuses on the intense intimacy of the artist’s late work. As well as many of Gwen John’s major paintings, the exhibition in Bath introduces a significant number of her small works on paper, mostly from private collections and rarely seen in public. These tiny works demonstrate the artist’s fascination with the intimate minutiae of everyday life as well as with the mechanics of painting.

The show follows Gwen John’s development from her early years at the Slade School of Fine Art in London to her permanent move to Paris in 1904 and the life she built as an artist there. The exhibition draws on new research into John’s connections to her contemporaries and her personal library acquired by the National Library of Wales. Elements of her life touched upon within the exhibition’s narrative include the relationship of her work to that of her brother Augustus John (1878-1961), her ten-year affair with the sculptor Auguste Rodin (18401917), and her connections with her other contemporaries and women artists of her time, such as Ida Nettleship (1877-1907) and Ursula Tyrwhitt (1878-1966). The idea of the artist as an eccentric recluse is successfully challenged as she is shown as a networked, engaged, radical modern woman. Through her work as a model and as an artist, Gwen John courageously challenged the conventions of her time.

The exhibition includes loans from public institutions including Tate, National Museum Wales, The British Museum and other regional public collections, as well as rarely seen works from numerous private collections.

Dr Alicia Foster says, “A story of connection rather than isolation, this exhibition and book places Gwen John back into the cultural milieu of the cities of London and Paris where she chose to live and work throughout her career.”

Dr. Chris Stephens, Director of the Holburne, says: “Bringing Gwen John’s art to the Holburne fulfills a long-standing ambition. While its intimate scale and subject matter perfectly suits the Museum and its spaces, I am thrilled to present an exhibition that demonstrates the radical modernity of both John’s art and her life.”

A major biography of the artist, Gwen John: Art and Life in London and Paris by Alicia Foster and published by Thames & Hudson in association with Pallant House Gallery, is available from the Holburne Shop, £30 hardback.