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Lady Lever embraces a Bohemian spirit with new Augustus John show


Artworks by Augustus John will go on show in a new exhibition at the Lady Lever Art Gallery when the venue reopens following lockdown.

Around 40 paintings by the leading portrait artist – and influential professor of painting at the Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Art – will make up The Last Bohemian: Augustus John show.

The Tenby-born, Slade-trained artist moved to Liverpool in 1901 when he was just 23 and taught at the city’s famous Art Sheds, part of the university college.

His students included Albert Lipcinzski while James Herbert McNair was a contemporary on the staff there.

The Port Sunlight exhibition will explore his time in the city which greatly influenced his life and career and is where he made his first etchings.

One of the key works on show will be John’s portrait of Lord Leverhulme which became famous (or infamous) when its subject ‘beheaded’ himself. The exhibition will explore the extraordinary events that provoked Lever to destroy his own portrait, causing outrage and protest.

Other key paintings on display will include portraits of poets William Butler Yeats and Dylan Thomas.

The show will also explore John's long-standing passion for gypsy lore and language – which was encouraged by meeting university college librarian John Sampson - and his embrace of a travellers’ lifestyle and dress including a gypsy hat and gold earring.

He also had an unconventional and colourfully bohemian private life.

Exhibition curator Alex Patterson says: “This exhibition will be the first of its kind to fully explore the fascinating and controversial story of the portrait Lord Leverhulme commissioned from Augustus John in 1920 and which was later destroyed.

“It’s also the first time that particular focus will be given to John’s connection to Liverpool and will position his life and career in relation to the city’s unique influence and creative atmosphere.”

The exhibition includes loaned works from the Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool, National Museums Wales, Manchester Art Gallery and a private collection.

The earliest galleries and museums are being allowed to open as part of the Government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown is May 17.


Portrait of Augustus John by William Rothenstein, 1899. © National Museums Liverpool.

Portrait of William Hesketh Lever by Augustus John, 1920. © the Estate of Augustus John/Bridgeman Images

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