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-The world's best paintings are
-displayed at London's Tate Gallery.
-In their midst, there's a collection
-of works by a Welsh artist.
-In the past, we thought of Gwen John
-as Augustus John's sister.
-However, Gwen John
-was an important artist.
-Her work was put on display
-following her death...
-..and it was an eye-opener
-for the art world in London.
-Since then, the value of her work
-has kept going up.
-Life wasn't always easy for Gwen.
-She once earned a living by
-modelling for the sculptor, Rodin.
-When she met Rodin
-for the first time...
-..she would have been drawn into
-a very strange world.
-I'd say that it was a little erotic.
-Her later life is a mystery.
-Her family don't even know
-where she was buried.
-I'd feel very grateful if we could
-finalize her resting place...
-..with a very simple
-Even in death,
-Gwen John remained an enigma.
-Today, she is considered one of
-the 20th century's leading artists.
-Early in September 1939,
-this platform in Northern France...
-..was awash with panic
-at the start of the war.
-Amidst the frenzy, was a slender,
-middle-aged Welsh woman.
-She became a world-famous artist...
-..but on that day in Dieppe,
-Gwen John was unknown and alone.
-On that day, we're not sure if Gwen
-was escaping from the war in Paris.
-However, she didn't reach
-the end of her journey.
-She fell ill at the station...
-..and died a few days later
-at a nearby hospital run by nuns.
-Family and friends
-didn't attend her funeral...
-..and her final days
-are still a mystery.
-This journey to Dieppe is a chance
-to discover exactly what happened.
-Gwen John was a Pembrokeshire girl.
-After her mother's sudden death,
-when Gwen was only eight...
-..the family moved
-from Haverfordwest to Tenby.
-The letters that she received
-from her family...
-..and those she wrote to her friend,
-..suggest that she had
-a difficult childhood.
-The atmosphere and relationship...
-..between Gwen and her father
-was rather cold and difficult.
-Gwen wasn't formally educated
-like her brother.
-However, she did indulge
-in her passion for painting.
-Gwen left Tenby
-against her father's wishes.
-She followed her brother, Augustus,
-to the Slade School of Fine Art.
-It was the school's golden age.
-The same education
-was offered to men and women.
-Gwen was in her element.
-Education at Slade
-was quite classic.
-They would draw in the Antique Room.
-At Slade, it was important
-to follow life drawing classes.
-Men and women would attend
-life drawing classes...
-..in separate classrooms.
-It was also common for students
-to work as models.
-With the exception of her study
-of Michelangelo's work...
-..we only have one painting
-from Gwen's time at Slade.
-It depicts her friends
-with her brother, Augustus.
-It was thought that Gwen John
-was more talented than Augustus.
-In her final term...
-..Gwen won the Melville Nettleship
-Prize for figure composition...
-..thanks to her love
-of life drawing.
-Was it difficult for women
-to become professional artists?
-At the time, it was unusual to see
-a professional female artist...
-..as they often opted
-for marriage or teaching.
-However, she was adamant that she
-would become a professional artist.
-After graduating from Slade...
-..Gwen came to Paris to study with
-Whistler at the Academie Carmen.
-She moved to Montparnasse...
-..with Gwen Salmond
-and Ida Nettleship.
-At the time, the city was a Mecca
-for young European artists.
-They flocked here to make contacts
-and study with the masters.
-In that era, it was unusual
-for a small town girl...
-..to escape to somewhere like Paris
-and live on her own.
-we must put this into context.
-It was widely known
-to women of the era...
-..that Paris was a place where
-women could live independently.
-They could progress in their careers
-as artists or litterateurs.
-Women flocked to Paris
-to live freely.
-Gwen received a fantastic education
-once Gwen had settled in Paris...
-..we started to see
-a gradual change in her work.
-She started to respond
-to the works of other artists...
-..such as Chagall
-and Le Douanier Rousseau...
-..who were very influential in Paris
-between the two wars.
-Gwen's self portrait from the era
-gives us a glimpse of her character.
-It shows her eagerness
-to be taken seriously as an artist.
-We see a character
-that's quite deep and serious.
-There's a focus on the face
-whilst the background is plain.
-There's a strong light
-illuminating the face.
-It's important to look
-at her presentation.
-She's wearing clothes
-that were decades out of fashion.
-She was eccentric and artistic and
-would dress herself in this way...
-..to display herself
-as an educated individual.
-She was a new woman
-or a thinking woman.
-In Paris, Gwen met artistic greats
-including Picasso and Matisse.
-It was an exciting place
-for young artists...
-..but a meeting with a famous
-European artist changed her life.
-Gwen had to sustain herself
-..and it was common practice
-to model for the era's artists.
-Her brother, Augustus,
-suggested that she approached...
-..the world-famous sculptor,
-It is thought that Augustus
-..to go and meet with the
-accomplished sculptor, Rodin.
-She presented herself at his home
-as Gwen John, sister of Augustus.
-She explained that she was looking
-for modelling work.
-Augustus told her
-to consider it an honour...
-..to be of service to Rodin.
-Behind these walls, there were
-numerous naked women and men...
-..who modelled for the master.
-Some referred to the place
-as a Banquet of Buttocks!
-Gwen John shyly entered that room
-on a spring morning in 1904.
-She would have stood in a large room
-with dozens of other workers.
-Most of them were naked...
-..as Auguste Rodin specialized
-in sculpting the female form.
-I imagine that Gwen
-would have been surprised...
-..to see such a place...
-..and the way in which Rodin worked.
-When Gwen met Rodin,
-he was almost 40 years her senior...
-..and was one of the world's
-most established artists.
-However, did Rodin
-enrich Gwen's life as an artist?
-Did he nurture her talent...
-..or was she held back
-by her feelings for him?
-Would this relationship
-shape her work and legacy?
-The Rodin Museum in Paris is home to
-some of his greatest masterpieces.
-His only full sculpture of Gwen John
-is prominently displayed here.
-Rodin was 40 years older than Gwen
-but he was the love of her life.
-She modelled for Rodin's monument
-According to Rodin,
-Gwen had un corps admirable!
-She was a popular model with
-an ideal physique for sculptors.
-Initially, I suspect Gwen
-was attracted to the excitement...
-..of being involved with the work
-of the legendary sculptor...
-She certainly had a physical
-and sexual attraction towards him.
-If we think of Rodin's studio...
-..there would have been
-several naked men and women...
-..in a situation that could
-be deemed slightly erotic.
-She would have been part of this.
-At Rodin Museum's archive, there's
-proof of the pair's relationship.
-Gwen was his mistress
-for over a decade.
-Aujourd'hui a ete
-le plus miserable jour.
-Dans la nuit je revais.
-Je me sentais si solitaire.
-Votre Marie, qui pleure maintenant.
-In these boxes, there are
-2,000 letters from Gwen to Rodin.
-Sometimes, she wrote to him
-several times a day.
-She repeatedly wrote
-of her love for him.
-We don't know if he read each letter
-but he kept them.
-Rodin certainly made
-an impression on her.
-He encouraged her to paint
-and thought highly of her work.
-I believe that he managed to
-persuade her that she could paint...
-..and that she should persevere.
-The great thing
-about Rodin's studio...
-..was that everyone
-was encouraged to work hard.
-They were expected to continue
-with their own work at home.
-He thought that by working hard,
-you would reach your potential.
-Gwen did paint at home.
-She created her masterpieces in her
-confined Montparnasse attic room.
-Rodin visited Gwen in her room
-one morning each week...
-..but she waited every morning,
-in case he arrived.
-She'd wash and brush her hair,
-place fresh flowers on a table...
-..and wait for the sound
-of his footsteps on the stairs...
-..to enjoy the pleasure
-of one rare hour in his company.
-The room was her sanctuary and the
-subject for many of her paintings.
-painted this scene several times.
-We tend to study these paintings...
-..and read too much
-into Gwen John's life.
-We think of her as a hermit who was
-confined to painting in her room.
-However, an empty room was a popular
-theme in French art during the time.
-It's important that we study
-Gwen John's work...
-..in the context
-of early 20th century French art.
-Whilst Gwen lived in a small room...
-..Rodin lived in Meudon, three miles
-from the centre of Paris...
-..in a luxurious home with a studio
-at the bottom of the garden.
-There's no doubt that Gwen was
-head over heels in love with Rodin.
-She was besotted
-to the point of obsession.
-She would come to the house
-and hide in the bushes...
-..to see the one love of her life.
-Gwen eventually moved from Paris
-to Meudon to be closer to Rodin.
-Rodin wasn't the only man in Paris
-to influence Gwen.
-The lawyer, John Quinn,
-was a modern art collector...
-..and he became her sponsor.
-he paid Gwen a sum of money...
-..and he received
-four pieces of work in return.
-This gave Gwen
-a sense of security...
-..and introduced her
-to new social circles in Paris.
-Gwen John would have attended
-dinners with John Quinn in Paris...
-..and she talked
-to the likes of Picasso.
-Gwen John exhibited work in many of
-the era's important exhibitions...
-..such as an exhibition
-in New York in 1913.
-It was one of the most important
-exhibitions in 20th century America.
-It was called the Armory Show.
-She also exhibited at Paris's
-prestigious, Salon d'Automne.
-She had a public profile in Paris
-and on the international stage.
-We challenged the artist,
-Mary Lloyd Jones...
-..to recreate one of Gwen's works.
-is typical of her work.
-It depicts a girl
-sitting alone in silence.
-Every detail has been planned...
-..to create unity in the expression.
-I was originally drawn
-to the colours in the painting...
-..especially the purple colour
-with a tinge of brown.
-These lighter colours are splendid.
-There are warm tones
-mixed with colder blue hues.
-I'm mostly intrigued by this pot.
-It stands out
-due to its popping colour.
-The technique she developed...
-..doesn't shout out at you.
-It's quiet but people respond to it.
-You won't get tired of her work.
-once claimed that in 50 years...
-..he would be known
-as Gwen John's brother.
-I believe that he was correct.
-Rodin's romance with Gwen dwindled.
-Rodin grew distant,
-so she turned her thoughts to God...
-..and her visits to the Meudon order
-became more frequent.
-In 1913, she was accepted as a
-full member of the Catholic Church.
-She would often come and sketch
-at the back of this church.
-In a letter, she described herself
-as "God's little artist".
-She also wanted to be a saint.
-She loved depicting
-adults and children at church.
-This caused a few problems...
-..because some people thought it was
-inappropriate to draw at church.
-However, she considered drawing...
-..part of the worshiping process.
-She couldn't separate the two things
-in her own mind.
-The church was Gwen's solace...
-..when she lost the man who had
-consumed her life for 15 years.
-His death broke Gwen's heart and
-even made her question her sanity.
-However, she returned to painting.
-After her long courtship
-..his death released her.
-She painted regularly and staged
-a solo exhibition in London...
-..and the National Museum of Wales
-bought one of her works.
-By this time,
-she'd purchased land in Meudon...
-..and hoped to convert
-a garden shed into a home.
-However, her health deteriorated.
-Gwen's final years were lonely.
-She spent increasing amounts of time
-meditating and praying.
-This cold, hut in Rue Babie
-is where she spent most of her days.
-When workers came to fix the roof...
-..she slept outdoors with
-no thought for her fragile health.
-In September 1939, Gwen travelled
-by train from Paris to Dieppe.
-She was 63 years old
-and had been ill for some time...
-..but wouldn't admit
-the severity of her illness.
-She hadn't contacted her friends
-for two years.
-We don't know
-where she was going and why.
-However, this was her final journey.
-Gwen was seriously ill
-when she left the train at Dieppe.
-She had nobody for company.
-She fell on the platform
-and was rushed to hospital...
-..where she died a few days later.
-At her London home...
-..Sara John, Gwen's great-niece
-and the granddaughter of Augustus...
-..has done some research
-about her aunt's final journey.
-a special memorial...
-..in the hope that it will
-be placed on her grave.
-A friend recently commented...
-..on how discreet it was of Gwen...
-..and how typical it was
-to die so discreetly...
-..and not have a plaque.
-But because of her
-..I think that it's very important
-for all of us...
-..to have a discreet
-little plaque put there.
-People will know and can pay
-their respects to that site...
-..and then the whole of her history
-now is complete.
-Gwen passed away just after
-the outbreak of World War II.
-Cemeteries were full of the bodies
-of young soldiers.
-Our research shows that she
-was buried in a pauper's grave...
-..but her body was later cremated
-to make room for the soldiers.
-However, we did find evidence
-that she was buried here...
-..at Jan Val Dieppe cemetery.
-The records clearly show that
-Mary John was buried in plot 446.
-There's no age.
-I find Gwen John's work interesting
-as she's from Pembrokeshire...
-..but also fitted into
-the French arts world.
-She was a Welsh artist
-with international attitudes.
-I believe that she excelled
-at portraying character...
-..in a very confined space.
-She was one of the most
-important artists of her time.
-The quality of her work
-is totally incredible.
-She managed to incorporate...
-..many contemporary influences...
-..but always used them
-to her own advantage.
-Her work was certainly unique
-during the era in which she lived.
-It is very telling...
-..that there isn't a gravestone
-or memorial for Gwen John in Dieppe.
-However, Sara hopes
-this will be rectified.
-will commemorate Gwen John...
-..in the country
-where she lived and worked.
-It's the least we can do
-for such an exceptional artist...
-to 20th century art.
-S4C Subtitles by Tinopolis