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Newly Discovered Augustus John Drawing

2nd March 2021.

A newly discovered drawing by Augustus John of his mistress and muse Dorelia is to be sold in Tennants Auctioneers’ British, European and Sporting Art Sale on 20th March with an estimate of £7,000-10,000 (plus buyer’s premium). Augustus John (1878-1961) was regarded as one of the finest artists and the pre-eminent society portraitist of his day. Poetic and impressionistic, John’s inciteful portraits capture the spirit of the age and the bohemian circles in which he mixed. The drawing is being sold from a Private Collection.

John was introduced to Dorothy ‘Dorelia’ McNeill by his sister and fellow artist Gwen John in 1903, and she was to become first his model, then his mistress who lived with John and his wife Ida Nettleship. Following Ida’s death in 1907, she became John’s common law wife and by the time she died in 1969 had long been known as ‘Mrs John’. Dorelia became an icon of bohemian fashion and was the subject of many of John’s most inciteful and personal paintings. The present drawing, executed in broad strokes of charcoal on buff paper, dates from circa 1903-05 at the start of their long relationship.

The full catalogue description is as follows:

Augustus Edwin John OM, RA  (1878-1961)

Portrait drawing of Dorelia McNeill, c.1903 - 05

Bears a signature in another hand, charcoal, 16cm by 15.5cm

Mistakenly identified on the rear of the frame in a faint inscription, ALICK SCHEPELER / 3rd Wife, and indistinctly initialled J.K.? F

Dorelia (b.1881) was Augustus John's muse and mistress. He never re-married after the death of his first wife, Ida, in 1907, but by the time Dorelia died in 1969 she had long since been referred to as 'Mrs John'.

For a similar work see 1903 example sold at Christies, June 25th 2015, Modern British and Irish Art Sale, London, Lot 8 which realised £146,500 (inc. premium)

Our thanks to Rebecca John for her help in cataloguing this work.

Further details of the British, European and Sporting Art Sale can be found here.

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