Copyright 2018 Southampton City Art Gallery All rights reserved

In Storage

Gwen John (1876-1939)

Mere Poussepin

Gwen John moved to France in 1903 to escape the shadow of her flamboyant artist brother Augustus John, even though he had championed her work and predicted that she would be remembered as the better artist. After settling in Paris she began modelling for the sculptor Rodin and became his mistress. The relationship dominated her life for the next ten years.

When the affair with Rodin broke down John turned to the Catholic faith. She met the Dominican Sisters of Charity who commissioned a portrait of their founder Mere Marie Poussepin. John worked from an old portrait printed on a prayer card and struggled to complete the task. Even so, the nuns asked for extra portraits to be hung in different rooms and at least six of these still exist. The painting is typical of John's portraits with its muted colours, simple composition and quiet intensity.

Medium oil on canvas
Date 1920
Dimensions 867mm x 512mm
Acquisition Number SOTAG : 1456
Credit Line Purchased in 1954 through the Chipperfield Bequest Fund