In 1903 Augustus John met Dorothy McNeill, whom he dubbed 'Dorelia', and later that year she moved in with the artist, his wife and family, becoming his muse. To him she was the embodiment of his complex ideal of womanhood: as Michael Holroyd commented: 'She was, of course, hypnotically beautiful - almost embarrasingly so, Will Rothenstein found: 'one could not take one's eyes off her'. ... In his portraiture, Augustus was like a stage director, assigning his subjects all sorts of dramatic roles. Dorelia, it seems, acquiesced in them, fitting each of them to perfection - mother, mistress, little girl, phantasm, goddess, seductress, wife. She became all things to him; she was everywoman' (Augustus John The Years of Innocence, London,1974, pp. 148-149).
Dorelia's unique features have often been likened to that of the Mona Lisa, with her self-possessed, enigmatic gaze. In the present drawing her eyes are turned away, both a demure and alluring pose beneath the heavy brim of her hat. This drawing is accomplished with long and flowing lines, which are freer in execution than John's depictions of Dorelia in 1903-4.