Dorelia signed 'John.' (lower right) pencil 34.2 x 27.5 cm. (13 1/2 x 10 3/4 in.)
PROVENANCE: John Bryson Esq. Thence by descent
EXHIBITED: London, Royal Academy of Arts, Diploma Gallery, Works by Augustus John, 1954, cat.no.113
When writing the preface to the 1954 Royal Academy of Arts exhibition, of which this drawing featured, Sir Gerald Kelly, the then president of the famous institution commented 'at the other end of the East Gallery, there is a great collection of drawings of Dorelia. No painter has made finer monuments to two women whom he loved: Ida and Dorelia here find the memorial of their lives. Here is beauty fixed.'
The name of Dorelia has become synonymous with the art of Augustus John, her origins and story becoming clouded in the romantic myth that now surrounds the life of Augustus. She was born Dorothy McNeill in Camberwell in 1881 and whilst working as a secretary attended evening classes at the Westminster School of Art. She claimed to have first spotted Augustus John at a private exhibition and decided there and then he was to be her destiny but it is likely she was introduced to the artist through his sister Gwen who had been giving her private tuition. When John met Dorelia it was an instant and mutual attraction. John had become slightly fatigued of the conventionality of his marriage to Ida Nettleship and Dorelia offered him the perfect bohemian escape route. She immediately became his mistress and muse. With her sultry dark looks and large almond eyes, John found in her his gypsy lover, his inspiration. He renamed her Dorelia and taught her Romany. She bore him two sons and after the premature death of Ida became his second wife. Despite numerous other affairs, Johns love for Dorelia never wavered and they lived together until his death in 1961.