Philobiblon: An individual

Monday, December 06, 2004

An individual

A final note on the artist Gwen John, from a lovely description of her by Jeanne Robert Foster, an American poet and editor who visited on behalf of her companion, who was Gwen's patron.

"Jeanne thought Gwen probably seemed younger than she actually was, and guess her age at 38 or 40 (she was 44). She noticed that she also created the impression of being taller than her actual height ... She thought Gwen looked a bit like a nun, with her dark hair parted in the middle and 'framing her face in an oval rim of shadow'. ...

Her face was a 'pure oval' ... Her voice was quiet and 'wavering', though 'occasionally broken by contralto notes of a fantastic determination to live as she pleases'. She noticed her hands, ' the slightly swollen pointed graceful hands of the heaven-born artists', and that she moved swiftly with a slight, attractive awkwardness.

Jeanne though she would never describe her as shy. 'She is perfectly poised, a great lady in a way, bitter towards the average person, determined to get her own way, proud, savagely proud, yet childish, very affectionate, wanting love, yet refusing it. ...

[The house] She found a stone floor, with no rugs, and no furniture in the living room except a very hard couch, a tiny coal stove and battered little oil stove, a small bookcase in the wall, a bare pine table (the round one which appears in the Interior paintings, a 'stand (simple easel) and three chairs. There was one picture on the wall, a drawing of Augustus's. ...

The overall atmosphere was, she thought, 'monastic,' rather than impoverished." (p.203-204 - biblio details here.)

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