Gwen John 1876-1939


In 1913 she followed Rodin's long-time lover Camille Claudel and converted to Catholicism. She remained in Meudon until shortly before her death, eventually building a chalet studio on Rue Babie. The nuns of the town's Dominican convent were among her sitters, together with members of her church congregation. On the eve of war in September 1939, at the age of 63, Gwen travelled to the French channel port of Dieppe, carrying only an official copy of her will and instructions for her burial. She collapsed and died in the town's public hospital on 18 September.

Her works are Intimist in character: small-scale portraits, quiet interiors, her cats or a familiar sitter (The Convalescent) in a frequently-recurring setting. In recent decades, increasing critical and popular appreciation of her work has gone some way towards realising her brother Augustus's prediction that he would ultimately be remembered as 'Gwen John's brother'.