George Hyde Pownall (1866 or 1876-1932, England/Australia)


Pownall was an English painter of the Edwardian period, His small, vivid paintings of London, the West End, and the Thames are often overlooked when people consider city painting in the early 20th century, and this has not been helped by inaccurate or lacking biographical information relating to the artist’s life.

An accomplished musician and landscape painter, Pownall was born in England in 1866 (or 1876) and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in about 1911. He worked as a conductor, composer, tenor singer and pianist, painting in his spare time. His paintings are in the plein air style of Impressionism, and the sketch-like fluidity also resembles artists of this school, though Pownall’s technique is recognisably his own.


John, Gwen (1876-1939) - 1908c. A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris (Private Collection) by Milton Sonn

<br /><i>Via Flickr:</i>
<br />Oil on canvas mounted on board;   31.7 x 25.4 cm. 

Gwen John was born in Haverfordwest, Wales. From 1895–98, she studied at the Slade School of Art, where her younger brother, Augustus, had begun his studies in 1894. Even as a student, Augustus’ brilliant draughtsmanship and personal glamor made him a celebrity, and stood in contrast to Gwen’s quieter gifts and reticent demeanor. Augustus greatly admired his sister’s work, but urged her to take a “more athletic attitude to life” and cautioned her against what he saw as the “unbecoming and unhygienic negligence” of her mode of living. In 1898 she made her first visit to Paris and while there she studied under James McNeill Whistler at the Académie Carmen. She returned to London in 1899, and spent the next four years in austere circumstances. When she exhibited her work for the first time in 1900, at the New English Art Club her address was a derelict building where she was living illegally.

In 1903, she traveled to France. Upon landing in Bordeaux she set off on a walking tour intending to reach Rome. Sleeping in fields and living on money earned along the way by selling portrait sketches, she arrived in Toulouse. In 1904 she went to Paris, where she found work as an artist’s model and began modeling for the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and became his lover. Her devotion to the much older Rodin, who was the most famous artist of his time, continued unabated for the next ten years. During her years in Paris she met many of the leading artistic personalities of her time, including Matisse, Picasso and Brancusi. In 1910 she moved Meudon, a suburb of Paris where she stayed for the rest of her life. As her affair with Rodin drew to a close, Gwen sought comfort in Catholicism. Her notebooks of the period include meditations and prayers; she wrote of her desire to be “God’s little artist"and to "become a saint.”

Gwen John’s work consists mostly of small-scale portraits and still-lifes. Her portraits (usually of anonymous sitters) favored seated women in a three-quarter length format, with their hands in their laps. John painted slowly, often returning to a theme repeatedly. She preferred painting of reduced tone and subtle color relationships, in contrast to her brother’s far more vivid palette. She also made many sketches of her cats. Though she was once overshadowed by her popular brother, critical opinion now tends to view Gwen as the more talented of the two. Augustus himself had predicted this reversal, saying “In 50 years’ time I will be known as the brother of Gwen John.”