Augustus John OM

Colonel T.E. Lawrence

1919

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 800 x 597 mm
frame: 997 x 795 x 76 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Duke of Westminster 1920
Reference
N03566

Display caption

After service as a war artist in World War I, John found fashionable success with his portraits of famous literary and society figures such as Thomas Hardy, James Joyce and Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Popularly known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, TE Lawrence became famous for his exploits as British Military liaison officer during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18. In 1919 he acted as adviser and interpreter for his friend the Emir Feisal at the Paris Peace Conference, where John painted many official portraits, including one of the Emir.

Gallery label, July 2008

Catalogue entry

N03566 COLONEL T. E. LAWRENCE 1919
 
Not inscribed.
Canvas, 31 1/2×23 1/2 (80×59).
Presented by the Duke of Westminster 1920.
Coll: Purchased by the Duke of Westminster at the Alpine Club Gallery 1920.
Exh: Alpine Club Gallery, March 1920 (8); Temple Newsam, Leeds, July–August 1946 (35).
Lit: John, 1952, pp.238, 244–7.
Repr: Exh. cat., British Council, Contemporary British Art, Warsaw, Helsingfors and Stockholm, 1939 (44); Mervyn Levy, Drawing and Painting for Young People, 1960, facing p.32 (in colour).

Better known as Lawrence of Arabia, T. E. Lawrence was born in 1888. During the 1914–18 war he became the driving force behind the Arabs' offensive and defensive movements against the Turks; after the war he recorded his Middle Eastern experiences in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He joined the R.A.F. as an Aircraftman in 1922 under the name of T. E. Shaw, describing this period of his life in The Mint. He was killed in a motor-cycle accident in 1935.

It was during the Peace Conference of 1919 that John became friendly with Lawrence who was in Paris championing the cause of King Feisal and the Arabs. Lawrence enjoyed being painted and was always amused by the results. In a letter to John he referred to this portrait as the ‘rebellious’ or ‘wrathful’ one, and was amused that it ‘went off at top speed for a thousand to a Duke!’ Actually Lawrence himself wanted to buy this picture but the price was too high.

John painted two other portraits of Lawrence at this time; one of them, referred to by Lawrence as the ‘goody-goody one’, was exhibited with the Tate Gallery picture at the Alpine Club Gallery in 1920 (29), while the other John referred to as a ‘dud’. John did several drawings of Lawrence, and also painted portraits of him as Aircraftman Shaw at a later date.

For other portraits of Lawrence see Eric Kennington, N05438 and N06230, and F. Derwent Wood, N03602.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I