John, Rebecca (b.1947)

Rebecca John is an artist who has achieved recognition for the first time in her 50s - a surprising enough fact in itself in today's youth-rated world. But what is even more remarkable is that she has done so after believing, for most of her life, that to be an artist was not a serious option for her. Her grandfather, the artist Augustus John, bestrode the better part of the 20th century in the arts and bohemia like a colossus. His reputation was such, says Rebecca that the careers of two of his children, Edwin and Vivien, both artists, 'suffered terribly'. Aware that 'it wasn't wise' to follow in her grandfather's footsteps, Rebecca studied jewellery design at the Central School of Art in the late sixties. 'I loved drawing,' she says, but the problem was Augustus. I found the one thing I could do, I couldn't do - so I forgot about it.' More than 30 years later, when she was 51, she held her first solo exhibition at the Lefevre gallery in London, one of the leading international dealers in impressionist and modern art. It was a sell-out. On the face of it, John's art could not be more different from her grandfather's. For a start, although Augustus painted some ravishing flower paintings, they could not be classified as botanical art in the way that Rebecca's watercolour drawings of plant life can. Nor is there any comparison between the swift bravado of Augustus's drawings and the hand that made these delicate, painstaking images. Rebecca remembers her grandfather vividly. She was 14 when he died.


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