Augustus John, O.M., R.A. (1878-1961)
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Augustus John, O.M., R.A. (1878-1961)

Ida with baby

Augustus John, O.M., R.A. (1878-1961)
Ida with baby
signed 'John' (centre right)
9 7/8 x 14 1/8 in. (25.2 x 36 cm.)
Executed circa 1902-1905
Purchased from the artist by Hugo Pitman Esq.
Mrs Hugo (Reine) Pitman.
Sir Caspar John;
Lady John and by descent in the family to the present owner.
The Connoisseur, October 1970, p. 89.
M. Holroyd, Augustus John, I, 'The Years of Innocence', London, 1974, p. 208.
London, National Gallery, Exhibition of 20th Century British Paintings, 1940, no. 30, lent by Hugo Pitman.
Derby, Museum and Art Gallery, after 1942, catalogue untraced.
Leeds, Temple Newsam, 1946.
London, Royal Academy, 1954, no. 29, illustrated.
Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, 1956, no. 52, lent by Hugo Pitman.
London, Upper Grosvenor Gallery, 1965, no. 15.
Hull, University of Hull and Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, 1970, no. 38, illustrated.
London, Olympia, Augustus John, 1999, no. 90.
London, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Augustus John: Masterworks from Private Collections, 2004, p. 10, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

Ida Nettleship and Augustus John were fellow students at the Slade School of Fine Art in the 1890s. They married in 1901 and had five sons in as many years before Ida died in Paris, one hundred years ago, in 1907. She was only thirty years old and, according to contemporary reports, beautiful, original and talented ; her letters held in the National Library of Wales reveal her warmth and sense of humour and are full of comic descriptions of her young sons.

In the present work John has perfectly captured the beauty of his young wife as she cradles her newborn son. The baby was never positively identified, but within the family it was always felt that the freshness of her expression and tenderness of the scene suggested that the baby was most probably her first child, David, born in 1902 in Liverpool who became an oboist in the Sadler's Wells orchestra; or possibly her second son, Caspar, born in 1903 in Fitzrovia and destined to become a pioneer of the Fleet Air Arm and First Sea Lord in 1960. Many years later, after the drawing came into Caspar's possession, he would often look at it and reflect that he had never known his mother; he was barely four years old when she died and it may have been himself whom she was holding in her arms.

John has used the whole sheet of paper to describe the details of the scene; the cup at the bedside, Ida's wedding ring, the bedhead and the bedclothes gathered around - all of which add to the intimacy and warmth so beautifully expressed in this drawing.

We are grateful to Rebecca John for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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