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As a woman in a career still largely dominated by men - including her successful brother Augustus – Gwen John had to struggle for recognition. Her contemplative studies of lone women in the calm surroundings of their home suggest intimacy and peace but also a simultaneous sadness. There is no narrative content, although this picture’s title, The Convalescent, suggests a way in which we might read the painting. Like much of Gwen John’s work, it relies rather on mood, atmosphere and closely toned harmonies of colour for emotional impact. Nothing is known about the model, although she appears in about fifty of Gwen John’s later paintings.

May 2007