Augustus Edwin John, O.M., R.A., was a Welsh painter, draughtsman, and etcher.  By the 1920s, he was a celebrated portraitist whose sitters included many how his contemporaries such as George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence.  While he held a teaching position at the University of Liverpool, John was introduced to the Romani culture. He became fascinated with Romani, which would have a lasting influence on his art [2].


According to the National Gallery of Canada, John was the first British artist to be referred to as a post-Impressionist [1].   


In 1917, John obtained a commission under Lord Beaverbrook as official artist of Canadian War Records [3].  John was later asked by Lord Beaverbrook to create a mural honouring the Canadian infantrymen of the Great War [4].  In his autobiography, Chiaroscuro, John wrote, “I made a vast cartoon [...] I even began the painting: but a single brick has not been laid of this building nor, I was told, ever will be; but the cartoon at any rate, rescued by Mr Vincent Massey, has gone to Canada” [5].


The unfinished picture remained in John’s studio until his death in 1961, at which time it was sold at auction and disappeared into a private collection for almost half a century [6].  The 12’ x 40’ unfinished canvas, The Canadians Opposite Lens (Object No. 20110067-001) was returned to Canadian soil in 2011, where it was unveiled at its new home in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge [7].



1. National Gallery of Canada, Augustus John, Accessed 10 November 2018,

2. Ibid.

3.  Augustus John & Michael Holroyd, Autobiography : Augustus John, ed. unknown, (London, UK: Cape, 1975), p. 141

4.  Ibid., p. 144

5.  Ibid.

6. Canadian War Museum, WAR ART MASTERPIECE COMES HOME TO CANADA, 1 November 2011, Accessed 6 November 2018,

7.  Ibid.

Read more