La Gitana was painted in 1922, when Augustus was travelling in Spain. In his autobiography, Chiaroscuro, John wrote of his encounter with the gitanas: 'In the cave dwellings of Albaicín abide the celebrated gypsy dancers. These cave dwellings, carved out of rock, are whitewashed, clean and cool. I was very happy drinking wine with these girls in their pleasant quarters'. The whitewashed caves probably explains the white background in the portrait, an unusual background colour in John's work. In a letter to Dorelia that June, he tells her that his white paint had 'just about come to an end' before setting out from Granada to cross the Sierra Nevada to Guadix' (see M. Holroyd, Augustus John, The New Biography, London, 1996, pp. 483-484).
La Gitana is similar in style to The Spanish Gitana, a portrait of Pepita d'Albaicín whom John had met in London. This portrait was presented by the artist to Eve Fleming in 1921.
We are very grateful to Rebecca John for her assistance in cataloguing this work.