Gwen John



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Gwen John 1876–1939
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 111 × 137 mm
Purchased 1940

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Gwen John adored her cats, and depicted them frequently. This one, a tortoiseshell named Edgar Quinet, appears in most of her cat drawings, sometimes with her kittens. The name was taken from the address where John lived in 1904 when she first had the cat, 19 boulevard Edgar Quinet in Paris. When Edgar Quinet ran away in 1908, John was devastated. In a letter to a friend, Ursula Tyrwhitt, she wrote, 'when the cats make love I run to see if my sweet is one of them'. She composed a poem to her loss, 'Au Chat', which she sent to Rodin.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

N05154 CAT

Not inscribed.

Watercolour, 4 3/8×5 3/8 (11·5×14).
Purchased from the Matthiesen Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1940.
Coll: As for N05152.

Gwen John loved cats and indeed friendships like that with Maude Boughton-Leigh (see No.4088) were almost formed on a mutual fondness for cats. She had cats when she lived in Howland Street, London, and she was surrounded with cats when she went to live in the small shed on a piece of waste land behind the Rue Babie, Meudon. Latterly cats were among Gwen John's few companions; describing her death at Dieppe her brother wrote: ‘She had brought no baggage whatever, but as it turned out had not forgotten to make in her will a suitable provision for the cats....’

This study, together with N05155, may have been done at Meudon or in Paris. See N03174 and T00156.

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

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