John visited Wales several times between 1910 and 1913 and this painting is representative of his nostalgia and his desperate longing for his homeland during this period.

Reminiscent of early nineteenth-century romanticism, this portrait of Lily Ireland, pondering the panoramic landscape of the estuary at Mawddach, was painted by Augustus John, one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century.

In 1913 Augustus John and his acquaintances Joseph Holbrooke, a composer described as the ‘funniest creature’ John had ever met, and Sidney Sime, an illustrator and editor of The Idler, rented Llwynythyl, a property above the Vale of Ffestiniog in Wales. John described it as ‘a ‘delightful’ corrugated-iron shanty with a large kitchen and ‘great fireplace’, living-room and four small cabins containing bunks’.[1] There, Holbrooke imported a piano to continue composing and John invited Lily Ireland, a London model who, according to John:

‘…had never been out of London, and felt like a fish out of water in this wild place. She hankered after her native slum. It is true she recognised the sheep on the mountain-side, for she had seen similar...

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Reminiscent of early nineteenth-century romanticism, this portrait of Lily Ireland, pondering the panoramic landscape of the estuary at Mawddach, was painted by Augustus John, one of the most important British artists of the twentieth century.

In 1913 Augustus John and his acquaintances Joseph Holbrooke, a composer described as the ‘funniest creature’ John had ever met, and Sidney Sime, an illustrator and editor of The Idler, rented Llwynythyl, a property above the Vale of Ffestiniog in Wales. John described it as ‘a ‘delightful’ corrugated-iron shanty with a large kitchen and ‘great fireplace’, living-room and four small cabins containing bunks’.[1] There, Holbrooke imported a piano to continue composing and John invited Lily Ireland, a London model who, according to John: 

‘…had never been out of London, and felt like a fish out of water in this wild place. She hankered after her native slum. It is true she recognised the sheep on the mountain-side, for she had seen similar animals in Hyde Park’.[2]

Interestingly, the present composition focuses not on the model but on the landscape at the centre of the painting. Lily, however, is not a figure incorporated into the landscape, she is the viewer’s companion, experiencing the same estuary and distant mountains as the viewer. John reinvents the traditional isolated landscape by transforming it into a joint viewing experience.

The panel used for this painting has been covered quickly and decisively by John and the remnants of a rough pencil sketch can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the painting. Although John uses a number of cold blue colours, the composition maintains an overall warmth. This is provided by the underlying rich auburn-coloured panel, patches of which have been left bare throughout the painting.

John visited Wales several times between 1910 and 1913 and this painting is representative of his nostalgia and his desperate longing for his homeland during this period. The year this scene was painted, John wrote to his friend John Sampson from Hampshire that ‘I wish to the Devil I were in Wales again instead of this blighted country’.[3] His restlessness during this period would often be remedied with spontaneous visits to Wales with ‘a pony trap and a spell of irresponsibility’.

[1] M. Holroyd, Augustus John, (London, 1996) p.395.

[2] A. John, Chiaroscuro (London, 1952), p.224.

[3] M. Holroyd, Augustus John, (London, 1996), p.26.

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500 Years of British Art