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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.

November 2004