Gwen John, elder sister of Augustus (1878–1961), was born in Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire. In 1895 she followed Augustus to London and the Slade School, one of the first art schools to admit women, where she studied until 1898. From 1898–9 she was in Paris, where she studied at James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Académie Carmen. She returned to London, but in 1903 moved back to Paris, where she lived for most of the rest of her life. In order to earn money, she began to model for artists, including the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). In 1939 she left Paris for Dieppe, Normandy, where she died.
John is known for her intimate paintings of interiors and women, worked in subdued tones influenced by her period in Whistler’s studio. In later life she developed a technique using thinly applied oil paint, which resulted in matt surfaces reminiscent of fresco paintings.