Portrait of Dylan Thomas by Augustus John acquired for National Portrait Gallery

  • 16 August 2018

The National Portrait Gallery have acquired a portrait of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas by Augustus John, one of the most important British artists of the 20th century.

Dylan Thomas, by Augustus John, oil on canvas, circa 1937-8 © the artist's estate. All Rights Reserved 2018 / Bridgeman Art Library. Image © National Portrait Gallery London

Dylan Thomas, by Augustus John, oil on canvas, circa 1937-8

The striking portrayal of a young Thomas has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery with Art Fund support. The painting had previously been on long-term loan to the gallery where it has been on permanent display for 20 years.

Dylan Thomas is widely regarded as one of the most important literary figures of his generation. During his short life he wrote iconic poems including And Death Shall Have No Dominion, and Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, as well as his radio play Under Milk Wood.

Thomas met Augustus John, a Royal Academician who produced portraits of important cultural figures such as Jacob Epstein and George Bernard Shaw, in the 1930s, and is known to have sat for portraits by him twice. The other portrait is currently in the collection of National Museum Wales.

Documenting the close acquaintance between two of Wales’ most enduring cultural icons, the portrait will also go on display in Thomas’ hometown of Swansea in 2019 as part of the gallery’s Coming Home project, which will see 50 portraits from the gallery’s national collection travel nationwide to places the works are associated with.

Stephen Deuchar, director, Art Fund, said: ‘Augustus John’s portraits capture likeness and character with great economy, and this warm portrayal of the poet Dylan Thomas shows the painter at his most assured. Art Fund is proud to support the National Portrait Gallery in acquiring this fine work: it’s a wonderful addition to the gallery’s collection as well as to their Coming Home initiative, which will allow visitors from Swansea and beyond to connect with a famous sitter at first hand.’