Augustus John OM



Not on display

Augustus John OM 1878–1961
Oil paint on wood
Support: 451 × 305 mm
frame: 675 × 520 × 110 mm
Presented by Sir Robert Witt through the Art Fund 1918

Display caption

Robin was the third son of Augustus John and his wife Ida; he was eight when this portrait was painted. John often used his family as models, particularly for his less conventional work. In this intimate study, the boy’s long tousled hair suggests both freedom and ambiguity of gender. The close-up perspective also disturbs the boundaries of distance usually maintained in portraiture.

Robin’s consciousness of being scrutinised by his father could be interpreted as betraying resentment or unease. The two had a difficult relationship. Robin’s silences often infuriated John, who declared his son ‘hardly utters a word and radiates hostility’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

N03523 ROBIN c. 1912
Not inscribed.
Oil on wood, 17 3/4×12 (45×30·5).
Presented by Sir Robert Witt through the National Art-Collections Fund 1918.
Exh: Alpine Club Gallery, November 1917–February 1918 (19); Temple Newsam, Leeds, July–August 1946 (32).
Lit: Connoisseur, L, 1918, pp.167–8.
Repr: Bertram, 1923, pl.12; Rothenstein, 1944, pl.31; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.96 (in colour).

John found his children good subjects and there are many paintings and drawings of the members of the artist's large family. Robin was the third son of John's first marriage, and another painting of this child at the same age belongs to the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin. A drawings dated 1912, in almost the same pose and evidently at about the same age, was exhibited at Agnew's in October 1957.

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


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