Augustus John OM

Theodore Powys


Not on display

Augustus John OM 1878–1961
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 616 × 514 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1958

Catalogue entry

T00194 THEODORE POWYS c. 1932
Inscr. ‘John’ c.r.
Canvas, 24 1/4×20 1/4 (61·5×51·5).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1958.
Exh: R.A., 1958 (74).
Repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1958, p.11.

Theodore Francis Powys (1876–1953), writer, spent most of his life in seclusion in Dorset. His best-known books are Soliloquies of a Hermit, The Left Leg and Mr Weston's Good Wine. He was the brother of John Cowper and of Llewelyn Powys. Other members of the family were also distinguished in art and literature.

The artist wrote (23 August 1958): ‘I painted Theodore Powys at his Dorset home. I had been introduced to him by Colonel Lawrence. I had one sitting only though I had intended to continue the work; but on preparing to revisit my sitter, I decided I had ruined the picture by some unfortunate touches in the meanwhile & put the canvas away. Lately however I came across it in a cellar, and managed to remove the ill considered additions & restored it to its original condition. I cannot remember the date of the painting except that it took place perhaps two or three years before his death. I had the greatest regard for Theodore Powys both as a writer and as a man. The portrait was never exhibited before I sent it to the R.A. except that it hung in our dining room for some time before.’

Though the artist suggests that the portrait was painted about 1950, the sitter's widow and his brother W. E. Powys date it c. 1932 on the basis of the apparent age of the sitter (letters of June 1959 and 12 October 1959 respectively); stylistically it is fairly close to N05645 of that year.

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

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