Gwen John painted several versions of this work, some identical, some with differing costumes or poses. The sitter was a neighbour of John’s in Meaudon, France and her most frequently used model. However, despite this, she was rarely referred to in John’s letters and diaries and her name is unknown.
Young Woman Holding a Black Cat
46 x 30cm
Date of work
Born in 1876, Gwen John painted intimate portraits and studies of women, children and animals. Although at points in her career she was influenced by the Old Masters and Whistler, her style remained aloof from art movements and was intensely personal. In her lifetime, she was overshadowed by her vivacious painter brother Augustus John. Perhaps because of this, for most of her adult life she lived in France, where she developed a passionate attachment to the sculptor Rodin. Gwen John died in 1939 in Dieppe as she was leaving France at the outbreak of the Second World War.