This is perhaps John’s most famous painting, and considered his best portrait. The sitter is Guilhermina Suggia, a celebrated Portuguese cello soloist. Over 70 sittings over the course of three years were required for John to finish the painting, with the artist making several changes to the position of Suggia’s arm and the colour of her gown. Suggia herself wrote of her sittings that ‘I played Bach chiefly because, being classical music, it suited with the attitude required by the artist.’ The painting was awarded the First Prize in 1924 at the Carnegie Institute during its time in America.
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 186.7 x 165.1 cm Tate. Presented by Lord Duveen through the Art Fund 1925 © 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.