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.

This poetic painting of Lily Ireland overlooking Mawddach Estuary in Wales evidences Augustus John’s affinity towards lyrical landscape painting in the years before the First World War.

In 1910, John travelled to Provence, France, and began a series of small oil on panel paintings. These landscapes are governed by vibrant, saturated colours reminiscent of the Fauvists, and many anchor figures within the surroundings. For roughly three years, John continued to work in this manner throughout his travels across Europe, forming a significant chapter of his career. John’s attention to this idyll landscape in his home country of Wales is instilled with as much value as in his paintings of Provence and Normandy painted around the same date.

This composition focuses not on the model but on the landscape. Lily Ireland, however, is not depicted simply as a figure incorporated into the landscape, she is positioned as the viewer’s companion, viewing the same estuary and distant mountains as the viewer....


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This poetic painting of Lily Ireland overlooking Mawddach Estuary in Wales evidences Augustus John’s affinity towards lyrical landscape painting in the years before the First World War.

In 1910, John travelled to Provence, France, and began a series of small oil on panel paintings. These landscapes are governed by vibrant, saturated colours reminiscent of the Fauvists, and many anchor figures within the surroundings. For roughly three years, John continued to work in this manner throughout his travels across Europe, forming a significant chapter of his career. John’s attention to this idyll landscape in his home country of Wales is instilled with as much value as in his paintings of Provence and Normandy painted around the same date.

This composition focuses not on the model but on the landscape. Lily Ireland, however, is not depicted simply as a figure incorporated into the landscape, she is positioned as the viewer’s companion, viewing the same estuary and distant mountains as the viewer. Reworking the traditional isolated landscape, John has transformed the viewing experience into a joint venture.

Lily was the subject of several paintings during 1913 in Tan-y-grisiau, a stop on the Ffestiniog railway in Snowdonia, Wales. [1] Lily had never left London, according to John, who offered to take her to Wales for the first time in the Autumn of 1912, a year prior to her sitting for this painting. Set at Mawddach Estuary, this panel has been painted 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. Identified by her characteristic long golden locks, Lily is propped up against the steep mountainside in the foreground of this painting. Although John uses several cold blue colours, the composition maintains an overall warmth. This is supported 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’.[2] His restlessness during this period would often be remedied with spontaneous visits to Wales with ‘a pony trap and a spell of irresponsibility’.[3]

[1] John, R. (2008), 'Lily in the Welsh Hills by Augustus John Lot 12', Bonhams. [online]. Available at https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15888/lot/12/ (Accessed: 04/02/2022).

[2] John, A. (c. 1913) Letter to John Sampson, quoted in Holroyd, M. (1996) Augustus John: The New Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, p. 26.

[3] John, A. (1912) Letter to John Sampson, 13 March 1912, quoted in Holroyd, M. (1996) Augustus John: The New Biography. London: Chatto & Windus, p. 27.

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500 Years of British Art