Martin Tinney Gallery holds an exhibition on Welsh artist Augustus John (1878-1961) as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations, following a show on his older sister Gwen John (1876-1939) over the summer.
Augustus John: Drawings & Etchings runs at the Cardiff firm from November 16-December 17, bringing together more than 50 prints plus several works in pencil.
During Augustus and Gwen’s lives, the brother rarely came second.
He was a sought-after portraitist, member of the RA and recipient of the Order of Merit. In 1928 he graced the cover of Time magazine and was known for his numerous romantic exploits. Gwen, on the other hand, lived most of her career more quietly in France.
“Until recently his reputation preceded hers”, dealer Martin Tinney tells ATG. “While Gwen is now widely recognised as possibly the more important artist, it is worth remembering that Augustus John is regarded as one of the greatest draughtsmen Britain ever produced, as the drawings and etchings in this exhibition testify.”
Popular in his day, his pictures often command six-figure sums on the open market, with some of his highest prices being achieved recently. Last year, Augustus’ auction record came at Christie’s for a chalk drawing of his mistress and muse Dorelia McNeill, which was knocked down for $390,000 (£280,185).
Among the works on show in Cardiff is The Sonnet, a notable work in Augustus’ output as it is based on one of his sister’s earlier compositions: The Friends, now in the collection the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.
Gwen’s oil painting shows two girls in an interior, one leaning against another reading a book. Though the colours in his picture are bolder and the setting is outdoors, the composition and the girls themselves are unmistakably the same.
According to Tinney, the picture is “the only known example of such a link”. It is offered for a price in the low six figures.
More modest in price – but highly collectable – are the assortment of etchings. Most date from c.1905, early in Augustus’ career, and mostly depict single subjects.
These were published in editions of 25 and many of the plates destroyed, although in 1919 some of the remaining plates were used to make editions of around 50. The etchings in the show are available for £650- 5000.
Winter is coming
Running alongside the Augustus John exhibition is the Winter Exhibition, November 16-January 7, a rotating show of work by the gallery’s artists.
This includes familiar 20th century names such as Kyffin Williams, as well as Contemporary artists. Prices range from £200-50,000.
Tinney has high hopes for both events and says: “Despite the current economic climate, our 30th anniversary year has been a record year for the gallery, with a number of important exhibitions performing exceptionally well, not least the Gwen John show.”