Born in Britain in 1878, Augustus John trained at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, which had then taken over from the Royal Academy as the most important art school in the country, experiencing its heyday between 1895 and the First World War.
At the Slade, John was the most brilliant student of his day, renowned particularly for his outstanding draughtsmanship. During the first quarter of the 20th Century he was identified with all that was most independent and rebellious in English art, and was one of the most talked about figures of his generation.
He led a nomadic and bohemian life between 1911 and 1914, creating a series of romantic and beautiful paintings of the gypsies of North Wales. He also painted ambitious figurative compositions which, in their stylised form, brought him close to the work of the Symbolist painters of the age.
Augustus John was an official war artist during the First World War but it is probably as a portraitist that he is best remembered. In particular, he painted many of the leading literary figures of the day, including Dylan Thomas and Thomas Hardy.
However, the second half of his career is considered by critics to have seen the brilliance of his early work degenerate into flashiness and bombast, which added little to the significant achievements of his youth.
Augustus John died in 1961.