John was commissioned as a war artist in 1917, as a knee-injury sustained as a youth prevented him from enlisting for military service. He worked in the Canadian Overseas Military Forces for the Canadian War Memorials Fund in France until 1918, painting on the Western Front, where he created this portrait of a Canadian soldier in oils. It was actually a study for a large scale crowd painting of the Lens mining district, on 40 foot canvas. Unfortunately, although he painted an exact miniature of the piece in 1918, the full piece was never finished.
A Canadian Soldier
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 73 x 54 cm Tate. Purchased 1941 © Estate of Augustus John / Bridgeman Images
Augustus John was born January 1878 in Tenby, Wales. He studied at the Slade School from 1894 to 1898 where he won a scholarship and the Summer Composition Prize. After leaving school he travelled extensively around Europe, the UK and Ireland, where he painted whilst camping with gipsies and worked with Innes and Derwent Lees. His works were exhibited all over London and the rest of the UK and in later years across the USA.