Gwen John was one of those artists who worked towards a concentration on a few ideas.

Some viewers of her paintings are enchanted; others find them claustrophobic and a denial of life. She fell for Whistler's belief that colours could be placed in musical harmony, and disregarded the individual character of her models and yet needed them for observation. There are fifteen surviving paintings of a girl, known in most versions as The Convalescent, who may have been able to find the time to pose as she was off school, and this painting is one of the best. It is tiny, but the colour is lighter and more sharply contrasted than in the others. Each part of the canvas is touched once only with the brush, depositing a thick, coloured material with a coarse body, which serves at the same time as object, observation and distance, and which dries with a peculiar pitted surface. This image of a girl reading suggests her silent access to her imagination.


Ferens Art Gallery

Queen Victoria Square, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU1 3RA
01482 613902
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Opening times

Daily, 10am - 4:30pm (Sunday 11am - 4pm)



Exhibitions at Ferens Art Gallery

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