Seated Woman signed 'John.' (lower left) pencil 33 x 23.5 cm. (13 x 9 1/4 in.)
PROVENANCE: With Arthur Tooth & Sons, London Acquired by the family of the present owner circa June 1935 Thence by decent
It is thought that the present work may depict Dorelia, the artist's wife. The very 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, John's love for Dorelia never wavered and they lived together until his death in 1961.
A very similar work was sold in these rooms for over £33,000 (lot 11, 18 March 2009).