Celia Paul's Letters to Gwen John centers on a series of letters addressed to the Welsh painter Gwen John (1876–1939), who has long been a tutelary spirit for Paul. John spent much of her life in France, making art on her own terms and, like Paul, painting mostly women. John's reputation was overshadowed during her lifetime by her brother, Augustus John, and her lover Auguste Rodin. Through the epistolary form, Paul draws fruitful comparisons between John's life and her own: their shared resolve to protect the sources of their creativity, their fierce commitment to painting, and the ways in which their associations with older male artists affected the public's reception of their work.
Letters to Gwen John is at once an intimate correspondence, an illuminating portrait of two painters, and a writer/artist's daybook, describing Paul's first exhibitions in America, her search for new forms, her husband's diagnosis of cancer, and the onset of the global pandemic. Paul, who first revealed her talents as a writer with her memoir, Self-Portrait, enters with courage and resolve into new unguarded territory—the artist at present—and the work required to make art out of the turbulence of life.
Contains mature themes.
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“A portrait of two lives, entwined through time and space…Paul’s prose… glints and gleams on the page.”
Daily Telegraph (London)