Gwen John

Young Woman Holding a Black Cat

c.1920–5

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 460 x 298 x 17 mm
frame: 695 x 550 x 102 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1946
Reference
N05744

Display caption

Gwen John made numerous versions of this painting, some nearly identical and others with differing poses or costumes. The sitter was a neighbour of John's in Meudon, near Paris. Although she was the artist's most frequently used model, she is rarely mentioned in John's correspondence, and her name is unknown. She is sometimes referred to as 'the Convalescent' after the series of paintings of that name for which she posed, one of which hangs nearby.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N05744 YOUNG WOMAN HOLDING A BLACK CAT c. 1914–15
 
Not inscribed.
Canvas, 18×11 3/4 (46×29·5).
Purchased from the Matthiesen Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1946.
Coll: As for N05152.
Exh: Matthiesen Gallery, September–October 1946 (30), as ‘Three-quarter length of a Young Woman holding a black cat’; Arts Council, Ethel Walker, Frances Hodgkins, Gwen John, Tate Gallery, May–June 1952 (122, repr. pl.7).

Several variants of this subject exist and the same model can be recognized in other pictures, though it is not known who she was. Nos.1, 2, 5 and 6 at the Matthiesen Gallery, February– March 1958, show her wearing the same dress with the same window recess in the background. They were painted at Gwen John's flat, 29 Rue Terre Neuve, Meudon. When Edwin John went over to France soon after her death in 1939 he found all her work stored in this attic room.

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

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