Augustus John OM



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Augustus John OM 1878–1961
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 411 × 305 mm
Presented by Sir William Rothenstein in memory of Gerard Chowne 1917

Catalogue entry

N03198 NIRVANA 1908
Inscr. ‘John’ b.r.
Pencil and watercolour, 16×8 1/2 (41×22).
Presented by Sir William Rothenstein in memory of Gerard Chowne 1917.
Exh: (?) C.A.S., Loan Exhibition, Manchester, winter 1911 (169).
Repr: Tate Gallery Illustrations, 1928, pl.182; Picture Post, ii, 18 March 1939, p.46.

In the summer of 1908 John was staying at Dielette, a little village on the Normandy coast. This drawing was done there and later served as a sketch for an oil painting (repr. Burlington Magazine, XVII, 1910, p.228) which was shown at the N.E.A.C. in 1909 (31). It was exhibited as ‘Girl on the Cliff’, but was later renamed ‘Nirvana’ by Lady Ottoline Morrell, to whom it once belonged. The drawing is also very likely to have been known at one time as ‘Girl on a Cliff’ and was probably exhibited under this title at the C.A.S. Loan Exhibition in Manchester, 1911.

In Buddhist theology Nirvana is the state of perfect beatitude. It is the state where all passions are dissolved, the extinction of individual existence and absorption into the Supreme Being.

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

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