Gwen John

Nude Girl


On loan

Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts (Kaohsiung, Taiwan): Nude: art from the Tate collection

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

Display caption

The human body, a traditional theme in western art, was a tricky subject for women artists at the turn of the century because of questions of morality and decorum. By using a narrow colour range and minimal setting, and suppressing biographical details, John draws attention to the naked body. At the same time, the character of the model, Fenella Lovell, comes across powerfully. So the viewer experiences this painting, disconcertingly, as a portrait of a contemporary woman with no clothes on, who seems to be uncomfortable that we are looking at her.

Gallery label, February 2010

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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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