Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Augustus John at Cardiff Museum

Augustus John at the National Museum in Cardiff

A whole gallery is dedicated to Augustus Johns' portraits.

'Make a puddle of paint on your palette consisting of the predominant colour of your model's face and ranging from dark to light. Having sketched the features, being most careful of the proportions, apply a skin of paint from your preparation, only varying the mixture with enough red for the lips and cheeks and grey for the eyeballs. The latter will need touches of white and probably some blue, black, brown, or green. If you stick to your puddle (assuming that it was correctly prepared), your portrait should be finished in a  hour or so, and be ready for obliteration before the paint dries, when you start afresh'. This is how John explained his method for painting portraits.

John was good at catching an instantaneous attitude in his subjects - his pictures are like first sightings of people.

 Head of Dorelia, 1911, (oil on plywood)


Pyramus Johm, 1914, (oil on canvas)

Edwin John, 1911, (oil on panel)

Marchesa Casati, (oil on canvas)

Nicondra McCarthy, 1972, (oil on canvas)

May Earp, 1972, (oil on canvas)

Barbara Allen, 1972, (oil on canvas)

Edwin John, (oil on canvas)


  1. They don't look too well displayed in that little alcove? The ones on the left wall seem as if they would be hard to see since you can't go beyond the wire. They deserve a bit more space I think, particularly that charming Dorelia portrait. I like his tongue in cheek description of how to paint a portrait!

  2. PS Though the ones in your photographs are not all in the display? Were there more on display elsewhere? I'd like to see them sometime. The guy in the riding kit I think is Michel, a relative of Colin's. John is so good at capturing children, gets their "shine" at life.

  3. Avril, they were impossible to see in that corner of the room and I really could not understand why the wire needed to be there - very badly displayed indeed. Finding out about each painting was also difficult as you had to read the number under each painting and then consult the list displayed in the corner: it made you want to give up. There were more paintings in the rest of the room, but the ones behind the wire, were the best, in my opinion.

    The last time we visited the museum, Augustus John's paintings were displayed in a much larger room, without a wire, and that was much better - the same paintings as far as I can remember, but I might be wrong about that.