Gwen John

The Convalescent


Not on display

Gwen John 1876–1939
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 337 × 254 mm
frame: 433 × 352 × 60 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs Rhoda Symons 1937

Display caption

As a woman in a career still largely dominated by men - including her successful brother Augustus – Gwen John had to struggle for recognition. Her contemplative studies of lone women in the calm surroundings of their home suggest intimacy and peace but also a simultaneous sadness. There is no narrative content, although this picture’s title, The Convalescent, suggests a way in which we might read the painting. Like much of Gwen John’s work, it relies rather on mood, atmosphere and closely toned harmonies of colour for emotional impact. Nothing is known about the model, although she appears in about fifty of Gwen John’s later paintings.

Gallery label, May 2007

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Catalogue entry

N04861 CONVALESCENT (?) before 1924
Not inscribed.
Canvas, 13 1/4×10 (34×25).
Bequeathed by Mrs Rhoda Symons 1937.
Coll: Arthur Symons; Mrs Rhoda Symons.
Repr: Illustrated London News, 6 September 1952, p.382.

As there exist a number of very similar versions of this subject apparently painted from the same model (who also figures in other compositions) it is difficult to give a precise date to this picture. Gwen John made several drawings of Arthur Symons, who may have obtained this work directly from her. A version now owned by Colonel F. D. Samuel (exh. British Council, Contemporary British Paintings and Drawings, South Africa, 1947–8 (44, repr.)) was brought over by Ethel Nettleship from Meudon in 1924. Sir John Rothenstein in Modern English Painters: Sickert to Smith, 1952, pl.20, reproduces the version owned by Hugo Pitman and places it about 1925–30. Mary Taubman suggests before 1924 for the Tate Gallery picture. Other versions are owned by Denis Cohen (exh. Arts Council, Ethel Walker, Frances Hodgkins, Gwen John, Tate Gallery, May–June 1952 (112)); Colonel Molyneux, purchased at the Matthiesen Gallery in 1946 (21); and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

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


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