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JOHN, AUGUSTUS - Fine Augustus John Letter Mentioning his Paintings
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JOHN, AUGUSTUS - Fine Augustus John Letter Mentioning his Paintings

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JOHN, AUGUSTUS. (1878-1961). Welsh Post-Impressionist painter, etcher and portraitist. ALS. (“Augustus John”). 1p. 8vo. Salisbury, February 8, 1935. To Mr. Pollock.


“The other picture of the Marchesa Casati would I am sure be available if you wrote to Lord Alington, Crichel, Wimborne. It has not been reproduced. ‘The Yellow Jacket’ has been reproduced frequently. I think there has even been a picture post-card of it. My portrait of Mr. Montagu Norman has never been properly reproduced. This in the possession of the Bank of England and of course I have sent a considerable number of other pictures as Mr. Rutter may know… P.S. Another I might suggest is ‘The Green Jacket’ belonging to Sir James Dunn Bnt”


Although he began as an etcher, John is best remembered for his portraits, which included such illustrious subjects as T.E. Lawrence, Tallulah Bankhead, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Aleister Crowley, George Bernard Shaw, and Dylan Thomas.


Our letter refers to his portrait of eccentric Italian heiress and patron of the arts Marchesa Casati (1881-1957), known for her parties, fashion sense, menagerie of exotic animals, and as Gabriele D’Annunzio’s lover. According to our letter, her portrait was owned by Napier Sturt, 3rd Baron Alington (1896-1940) the sometime lover of Bankhead and “a soft-spoken, blond tubercular—well cultivated, bisexual, with sensuous, meaty lips, a distant, antic charm, a history of mysterious disappearances, and a streak of cruelty,” (Miss Tallulah Bankhead, Israel).


Another of John’s subjects was English banker Montagu Collet Norman, 1st Baron Norman (1871-1950) who was governor of the Bank of England from 1920-1944.


For more than three decades Frank Rutter (1876-1937) was the art critic for The Sunday Times. A proponent of modern art, he did much to promote the arts in England, including founding the Allied Artists Association, dedicated to staging exhibitions for modern artists.


Canadian industrialist and steel magnate James Dunn (1874-1956) earned a fortune in banking which he invested in mining ventures and Algoma Steel in Ontario, Canada. He was an avid art enthusiast whose collection included works by Holbein, Manet, El Greco, and Dali. John painted Dunn’s portrait and he also owned John’s painting “Dorelia,” a portrait of John’s common law wife and frequent model, Dorothy McNeill.


In addition to being a prolific painter, John fathered a number of children with his wife, McNeill, and a string of other lovers. One of his children was cellist Amaryllis Fleming, half-sister of Ian Fleming, creator of 007, James Bond.  


Our letter also mentions John’s painting “The Green Jacket,” which was the subject of media interest in 1928 when John visited a Boston gallery to see the painting, believing it to be a forgery, having no memory of having painted it. “A trip to the gallery with the reporter, however, revealed that ‘The Green Jacket’ was a genuine John; and, after identifying it as one of his own works, Mr. John made profuse apologies and declared that he was very certain that people on this side of the ocean are very honest after all,” (“Augustus John Shown One of His Own Works,” Harvard Crimson, December 10, 1928).


Written from his modernist studio, Fryern Court, built in 1933, in Salisbury. Folded with some creasing and two pin holes in the upper left corner. Framed with a portrait. Not examined out of the frame. An unusually fine letter.


Item #19884

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