Thursday, 16 June 2011

Augustus John

This post has been delayed as I have been correcting the final proofs for Book III and compiling the index (a terrible bore) as well as starting to write a 'thriller'. This post comes by special request.

Augustus John OM, RA was probably the greatest English portrait painter of the 20th Century and painted nearly everyone of note from WB Yeats to TE Lawrence and even Tallulah Bankhead. He also fathered numerous children, by both his wives and several other women, including one by Ian and Peter Fleming's widowed mother, Eve:

[Eve Fleming].

Amaryllis Fleming grew up to be a famous cellist and music teacher, even mentioned, as "Amaryllis somebody", in Ian's short story The Living Daylights, for the elegant way in which she managed to play that difficult instrument, and the concert hall of the Royal College of Music was recently renamed in her honour as the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall. According to her friends: "Men fell at her feet" but she never married:

[Amaryllis Fleming].

Now I really am off with Tristram Shandy's Uncle Toby and must also mention that Jamaica recently renamed the former Boscobel Aerodrome in St Mary's Parish the Ian Fleming International Airport, as it was the airport that he used when flying to and fro' Goldeneye.

Augustus John was born in Tenby, West Pembrokeshire, in 1878 and, despite a lifetime of various excesses and Bohemianism, lived until 1961. As a youth he and his sister Gwen attended The Slade School of Art on the north side of the main quad. of University College London and he won the Slade Prize for his painting Moses and The Brazen Serpent:

He also remarked to a friend that "we are the sort of chaps that our fathers told us to beware."

His sister was just as Bohemian as he and even became the alternative lover of his mistress, Dorelia (whom he later married as his second wife). Brian Sewell remarked that John: "was driven to draw the women that he bedded and bed the women that he drew". This is one of his most famous portraits; of (T E) Lawrence of Arabia:


  1. Thank you for this interesting introduction! I remember the last portrait from my edition of 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' and have always liked it, yet wasn't 'aware' of its creator until now.

  2. Dear NJS. Thank you for this great post! Augustus John was such a great painter, and lived such an interesting life, that one wonders why his biography has not been turned into a film as yet.

  3. Thank you both. I have added a photograph of Amaryllis Fleming.