‘The Last Bohemian: Augustus John’

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As soon as government restrictions are lifted, National Museums Liverpool will reopen the doors of Lady Lever Art Gallery with a brand-new exhibition. The Last Bohemian: Augustus John will showcase around 40 works by one of Britain's most iconic and controversial artists. The exhibition will include 18 loans from across the north west and National Museum Wales and will run until 30 August 2021.

Augustus John (1878-1961) was Britain's leading portrait painter at the turn of the 20th century.

John moved to Liverpool in 1901 to teach at the Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Art (part of today’s University of Liverpool). The exhibition explores his time in the city, which greatly influenced his life and career and is where he made his first etchings.

Lord Leverhulme’s infamous ‘beheaded’ portrait by John will claim the spotlight and the exhibition will explore the extraordinary events that provoked Lever to destroy his own portrait. The scandal was leaked to the press, causing outrage and protest.

As Britain’s leading celebrity painter, John’s portraits were often uncompromising and searching, famously capturing the true character and personality of each sitter. His celebrated portraits of acclaimed poets William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) and Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) will feature in the exhibition. Key moments of John’s life will also be represented, illustrating his artistic achievements and undoubtable contribution to British art.

Often described as a ‘bohemian’, John developed a passion for Gypsy lore and language and embraced a Travellers’ lifestyle. He was particularly famous for his technical drawing skill which he developed at London’s Slade School of Art. He formed close friendships with those he loved and admired, and this exhibition is a testament to those relationships.

Alex Patterson, Exhibition Curator said: “We are excited to reawaken everyone’s senses after lockdown with a brand-new exhibition in the opulent and artistic surroundings of the Lady Lever Art Gallery. This exhibition will be the first of its kind to fully explore the fascinating and controversial story of the portrait Lord Leverhulme commissioned from Augustus John in 1920 and which was later destroyed. It is also the first time that particular focus will be given to John’s connection to Liverpool and will position his life and career in relation to the city’s unique influence and creative atmosphere.”

The exhibition includes loaned works from the Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool, National Museums Wales, Manchester Art Gallery and a private collection.

Following the government’s latest announcement, museums and galleries in England will reopen on 17 May 2021, at the earliest. If visitors enjoy The Last Bohemian: Augustus John exhibition, we’re asking them to pay what they think is appropriate, to support our museums and art galleries. Visitor contributions help us to continue staging world class exhibitions.