I was wandering through a house filled with beautiful art the other day and I stopped in front of a very simple but stunning drawing. Baring in mind this house had a beautiful collection of Renaissance and Dutch oil paintings, my host was intrigued! I said “is this a Gwen John?” to which he was delighted as he’d recently purchased it, and was quite impressed I recognised it, as it had no signature! But her drawings are so instantly recognisable, and one of my biggest regrets was not buying one of her more finished drawings myself at a drawing sale at an art fair in London, about 20 years ago! She has always been over shadowed by her more famous brother Augustus John, but in my opinion she is a much more interesting artist. She is more known for being a muse to the Master of sculpture Auguste Rodin. She never completed that many fully finished oil paintings in her life, but those she did I think are some of the most sensitive and delicately painted images, usually portraits or a nude, but they have a unique softness and lovely ‘dry’ muted palette. Her brother Augustus was far more successful as an artist in his lifetime and was a good draftsmen, no question, but its all bravura and about painting society portraits. In that period women were not considered valued as much as men which has always baffled me, as her work has a sensitivity that perhaps only a women could create?! Thankfully today women artists have the same standing as men, such as Jenny Saville, Tracy Emin and Sam Taylor-Wood to name but a few….. But check out Gwen John’s paintings if you have a moment, there is a timidity and lack of confidence but that is what makes her paintings so beautiful. It was in an era where women were only just getting the vote, her also having a famous society portrait painter for a brother and also being the muse and lover of the greatest living sculptor of his era, Auguste Rodin! I think that would intimidate almost anyone, let alone a woman at the turn of that century, but her paintings and delicate sketches and watercolours are well worth a good perusal, for these very reasons…..She is very much a painter’s painter, and thankfully now has the acclaim she richly deserves. (The main image part of Tate Britains permanent collection).