Gwen John

Nude Girl


In Tate Britain

Gwen John 1876–1939
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 445 × 279 mm
frame: 539 × 371 × 55 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

Display caption

John’s limited use of colour and the minimal setting here draw attention to the sitter’s naked body. Although unnamed in the title, the subject is Fenella Lovell, an artist’s model whom John painted several times. The rigid pose and the slight distortion of the figure suggest tension, and the direct gaze challenges expectations of the passive female nude. This may reflect John’s own experience modelling or her known dislike of Lovell. In a profession still largely dominated by men, John had to struggle for recognition as an artist. Today, she is widely recognised for her intimate portraits.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 17 1/2×11 (44·5×28).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917.
Coll: An anonymous member of the C.A.S. Committee who presented it to the Society in 1911.
Exh: C.A.S., Loan Exhibition, Manchester, winter 1911 (225); C.A.S., First Public Exhibition in London, Goupil Gallery, April 1913 (66); C.A.S., Purchases and Gifts, 53 Grosvenor Street, June 1914 (9); C.A.S., Modern Paintings, Belfast, November 1914 (7); Matthiesen Gallery, September–October 1946 (40); Arts Council, Ethel Walker, Frances Hodgkins, Gwen John, Tate Gallery, May–June 1952 (103).
Repr: Burlington Magazine, LXXXI, 1942, p.239, pl.2a; The Listener, 10 October 1946, p.484.

Fenella Lovell, who used to pose for Gwen John in Paris, was probably the model for this and for another picture, showing her in the same pose but wearing a white dress; this was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1958 (repr. Painting and Sculpture Acquisitions, 1958, p.6).

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

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