Augustus John OM

Matthew Smith

1944

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 610 x 508 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1950
Reference
N05929

Display caption

After the first world war, John’s style changed little and his portrait compositions remained consistent. He preferred head and torso portraits, rather than full-length figures, painted before simple backgrounds such as a curtain or the studio wall. Despite relying on income from portraits to support his large family, many were uncommissioned or executed at the suggestion of friends.

This portrait of the artist Matthew Smith, an old and admired colleague, was painted in 1944, towards the end of John’s career. Smith stayed with the Johns in Hampshire after the loss of his two sons during the second world war.

Gallery label, November 2004

Catalogue entry

N05929 MATTHEW SMITH 1944

Inscr. ‘John’ t.r.
Canvas, 24×20 (61×50·5).
Chantrey Purchase from Stewart Grainger 1950.
Coll: Purchased by Stewart Grainger from the Leicester Galleries 1948.
Exh: Temple Newsam, Leeds, July–August 1946 (67); Arts Council, British Painters, 1939–1945, 1946 (32); Leicester Galleries, May 1948 (33).
Repr: Herbert Read, Contemporary British Art, 1951, pl.1; The Times, 24 November 1956, p.14.

Sir Matthew Smith (1879–1959), the painter. Like Augustus John he was a pupil of the Slade School. He painted John's portrait several times and it was in 1944 when Sir Matthew was painting John that the latter painted this portrait. No preliminary sketches were made.

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