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Gwen John/Art and Life in London and Paris/Pallant Gallery

Most art critics are women and most of these carry a feminist agenda which runs that female artists  were oppressed and unrated by their male counterparts.

Thus, the conventional narrative is that Gwen John’s more celebrated younger brother Augustus deliberately overshadowed her career though he was the lesser talent.

Well before the rise of the “oppressed female artist” I recall in the 1980s having a conversation with a collector who coveted a Gwen John sketch owned by his solicitor.

He observed that 50 years ago that Gwen was a better painter than Augustus.

This excellent exhibition celebrates Gwen John’s life which is not all that easy as she was something of a recluse.

We know she was the eldest of four and that her father was a solicitor based in Tenby.

She studied at the Slade with her brother and various other luminaries that were to dominate English art and exhibited for the New English Art Club.

In 1904 she went to Paris where she became the muse and lover of Rodin.

However her sexual proclivities lay with her own sex.

She was sponsored by an American collector of modernism – John Quinn – whom she rarely met.

He bought many of her works and through him she exhibited at the famous Armoury show in New York in 1913.

Her sense of line reminded me of Toulouse Lautrec and Ingrès.

The stillness of her interiors were comparable to Vuillard.

Indeed I  would go higher and compare their serenity to Vermeer.

The exhibition was well curated with pictures on view from James Whistler, Walter Sickert, Spencer Gore and Paula Modersohn-Becker who appeared in the After Impressionist exhibition.

A large naked photo of Gwen John greets you and made me wonder how reclusive she was.

Once again the Pallant has come up trumps for revisiting and revitalising an English artist.

It’s a small but worthwhile point that – unlike the After Impressionism exhibition – it’s far more comfortable to view.

I always stop by the Permanent Collection which, despite its name, changes frequently.

There was a lovely portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

He managed his career well becoming First President of the Royal Academy.

There is presently an exhibition at Kenwood House of his works but modern art criticism heralds Thomas Gainsborough and George Romney as the better painters.