With Great Britain leading a united force against Putin. I can come to the end of our amazing story, that Rena did not know about. She is the Muse of the Ages.
Caspar John is in my rosy family tree. He was a Sea Lord, and half-brother of Poppet Pol (John) There is no doubt that Rena’s late husband, Commander Sir Ian Easton, and John, knew each other. Tabitha Getty is Caspar’s second-niece. She was a Bohemian fashion model, and step-mother of John Paul, who was abducted. John is the subject of a movie and television series titled ‘Trust’. Why are these knighted men marrying beautiful American women? May I dare wonder?
Rena was the muse of my late, Christine Rosamond, and I. This is the love story of our time. The children born at the end of the World War were given a special mission. Rena and I were destined to meet – and part – so our spirits can rescue Britain from her enemies. Britannia rules the waves! Like Phoenix Birds…………..We will rise from the ashes?
“We now come to the History of Jon.
Jon, Jôn, Jhon, Jan, are all the same name, though the pronunciation varies, as the seamen like to shorten everything to be able to make it easier to call. Jon—that is, “Given”—was a sea-king, born at Alberga.”
King Henry the second claims he descends from Trojans. I have compared Rena to Helen of Troy – and the goddess, Britannia! I began a painting of her as Fair Rosamond, who captured Henry’s heart. This King of England placed her in a Labyrinth. I can not yet reveal what the movie ‘The Shape of Water’ revealed to me. It has much to do with Pharamond, the King of Franks.
I am going to contact Boyle and send him a movie script ‘Capturing Beauty’. If he won’t produce it, I will send it to de Toro.
Everyone wants to overlook the truth that I rescued Rena in the City of Venice, by the sea. At the premiure of OUR MOVIE, we will unite. When she comes down the isle, the audience will stand as one, and sing: for the world is saved by many means, but, it is the love the artist has for his muse, that forever gets our special attention. This is what we come back for, again, and again.
The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coasts repair.
Blest isle! with matchless beauty crowned,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.
President: Royal Rosamond Press
In the medieval romances, the lance with which Saint George slew the dragon was called Ascalon after the Levantine city of Ashkelon, today in Israel. The name Ascalon was used by Winston Churchill for his personal aircraft during World War II, according to records at Bletchley Park. In Sweden, the princess rescued by Saint George is held to represent the kingdom of Sweden, while the dragon represents an invading army. Several sculptures of Saint George battling the dragon can be found in Stockholm, the earliest inside Storkyrkan (“The Great Church”) in the Old Town. Iconography of the horseman with spear overcoming evil was widespread throughout the Christian period.
Talitha Getty (18 October 1940 – 14 July 1971) was an actress and model of Dutch extraction, born in the former Dutch East Indies, who was regarded as a style icon of the late 1960s. She lived much of her adult life in Britain and, in her final years, was closely associated with the Moroccan city of Marrakesh. Her husband was the oil heir and subsequent philanthropist John Paul Getty, Jr.
Her father subsequently married Poppet John (1912–97), daughter of the painter Augustus John (1878–1961), a pivotal figure in the world of Bohemian culture and fashion. She was thus the step-granddaughter of both Augustus John and his muse and second wife, Dorothy “Dorelia” McNeil (1881–1969), who was a fashion icon in the early years of the 20th century. By Ian Fleming‘s widowed mother, Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming née Rose, Augustus John had a daughter and Talitha’s aunt, Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999), who became a noted cellist.
Pol spent her early years, during the Second World War, with her mother in a Japanese prison camp. Her father was interned in a separate camp and her parents went their own ways after the war, Pol moving to Britain with her mother, who died in 1948 in The Hague.
Pol studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. Writer and journalist Jonathan Meades, who was at RADA several years later, recalled that, after first coming to London in 1964, he saw Pol with her stepmother at Seal House, Holland Park (home of Poppet John’s sister, Vivien). Meades thought her “the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen … I gaped, unable to dissemble my amazement”. In 1988, a former Labour Member of the British Parliament Woodrow, Lord Wyatt recalled, with reference to the “success with women” of Anthony, Lord Lambton, former Conservative Government Minister, that
…there was that Talitha Pol who was very pretty and had a little starlet job in Yugoslavia; and he went and stayed at the hotel and sent her huge bunches of flowers about every two hours and showered her with presents.
Another to come under Pol’s spell was the dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who first met her at a party in 1965. According to Nureyev’s biographer, Julie Kavanagh, the two were in thrall to each other, to the extent that Nureyev “had never felt so erotically stirred by a woman” and told several friends that he wished to marry Pol. In the event, Nureyev was unable to attend a dinner party given by Claus von Bülow, at which he and Pol were to have been seated next to each other, and so von Bülow invited instead John Paul Getty, son of his employer, the oil tycoon Paul Getty. Pol and Getty Jr forged a relationship that led to their marriage in 1966.
Marriage to John Paul Getty
Pol became the second wife of John Paul Getty, Jr. on 10 December 1966. She was married in a white miniskirt, trimmed with mink. The Gettys became part of Swinging London‘s fashionable scene, becoming friends with, among others, singers Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and his girl-friend Marianne Faithfull. Faithfull has recounted her apprehension, through “ingrained agoraphobia“, about an invitation to spend five weeks with the Gettys in Morocco (“but for Mick this is an essential part of his life”) and how, after splitting from Jagger, she took up with Talitha Getty’s lover, Count Jean de Breteuil, a young French aristocrat (1949–1971). Breteuil supplied drugs to musicians such as Jim Morrison of The Doors, Keith Richards, and Marianne Faithfull, who wrote that Breteuil “saw himself as dealer to the stars” and has claimed that he delivered the drugs that accidentally killed Morrison less than two weeks before Talitha’s own death in 1971. For his part, Richards recalled that John Paul and Talitha Getty “had the best and finest opium“.
Print designer Celia Birtwell, who married designer Ossie Clark, recalled Talitha Getty as one of a number of “beautiful people” who crossed her threshold in the late 1960s, while couturier Yves Saint Laurent likened the Gettys to the title of a 1922 novel by F Scott Fitzgerald as “beautiful and damned”. Among other glamorous figures of the Sixties, the fashion designer Michael Rainey, who founded the Hung on You boutique in Chelsea, and his wife Jane Ormsby-Gore, daughter of British ambassador David Ormsby-Gore to the United States during the Kennedy era, “hung out” with the Gettys in Marrakesh between their moving from Gozo to the Welsh Marches.
John Paul Getty, who has been described as “a swinging playboy who drove fast cars, drank heavily, experimented with drugs and squired raunchy starlets”, eschewed the family business, Getty Oil, during this period, much to the chagrin of his father. However, in later years, he became a philanthropist and, as a U.S. citizen, received an honorary British knighthood in 1986. His luxury yacht, built in 1927 and renovated in 1994, was the MY Talitha G.
In July 1968, the Gettys had a son, Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy, who became a noted ecological conservationist in Africa, dropped his third and fourth forenames, and took Irish citizenship in 1999. He and his wife Jessica (a chalet maid he met in Verbier) had three children, including a daughter named Talitha.
Talitha Getty is probably best remembered for an iconic photograph taken on a roof-top in Marrakesh, Morocco in January 1969 by Patrick Lichfield. With her hooded husband in the background, this image, part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, portrayed her in a crouching pose, wearing a multi-coloured kaftan, white harem pants and white and cream boots.
The look seemed stylishly to typify the hippie fashion of the time and became a model over the years for what, more recently, has been referred to variously as “hippie chic“, “boho-chic” and “Talitha Getty chic”.
As an actress, Pol appeared in several films, including Village of Daughters (1962) (as a daughter, Gioia Spartaco); an Edgar Wallace mystery, We Shall See (1964) (as Jirina); The System (1964) (as Helga); Return from the Ashes (1965) (as Claudine, alongside Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Samantha Eggar); and Barbarella (1968), a sexually charged science-fiction fantasy starring Jane Fonda, in which she had the minor uncredited role of a girl smoking a pipe.
Talitha Getty is rumored to have died of a heroin overdose in Rome, Italy on 14 July 1971; however, her death certificate listed the cause as cardiac arrest, and high levels of alcohol and barbiturates were found in her blood (source: source: 1930-, Pearson, John, (1995). Painfully rich : the outrageous fortune and misfortunes of the heirs of J. Paul Getty (1st ed ed.). New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0312135793). Ostensibly, she was in Rome to patch up her marriage. She died within the same twelve-month period as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Edie Sedgwick and, as noted, Jim Morrison, other cultural icons of the 1960s. Her friend Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, with whom she had spent time in Marrakesh, had predeceased Hendrix by a little over a year. 
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Caspar John GCB (22 March 1903 – 11 July 1984) was a senior Royal Navy officer who served as First Sea Lord from 1960 to 1963. He was a pioneer in the Fleet Air Arm and fought in the Second World War in a cruiser taking part in the Atlantic convoys, participating in the Norwegian campaign and transporting arms around the Cape of Good Hope to Egypt for use in the western desert campaign. His war service continued as Director-General of Naval Aircraft Production, as naval air attaché at the British embassy in Washington D.C. and then as Commanding Officer of two aircraft carriers. He went on to serve as First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in the early 1960s. In that capacity he was primarily concerned with plans for the building of the new CVA-01 aircraft-carriers.
Born the second of the five sons of the artist Augustus John (1878–1961) and his first wife, Ida John (née Nettleship), John was raised with his siblings in an undisciplined manner, frequently dressing as ragamuffins, to such an extent that his maternal grandmother attempted to secure and raise them herself. At the age of nine, he went with his brothers to Dane Court preparatory school in Parkstone, Dorset. There he won the prize for the best gentleman in the school and a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships, and it was this, together with a wish to seek a more orderly existence, that inspired him to join the Royal Navy. His father strenuously objected, but his stepmother help persuade him to support his son. In 1916 he entered the Royal Naval College, Osborne on the Isle of Wight, at the age of thirteen. He transferred to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1917 and passed out eighty-third of a hundred in 1920. John is remembered at Dartmouth by the naming of the college’s theatre and lecture hall, the Caspar John Hall.
Early years in the Royal Navy
Promoted to midshipman on 15 January 1921, John was posted to battleship HMS Centurion in the Mediterranean Fleet in February 1921 and then to the flagship of that fleet, HMS Iron Duke, in April 1922. He transferred to the destroyer HMS Spear in August 1922 and took part in operations during the Chanak Crisis later that year. He was promoted to sub-lieutenant on 30 January 1924. It was at this time that the future of naval aviation was being debated; the issue caught his imagination and during his qualifying exams at the RAF Flying Training School at Netheravon in 1925 (he gained first class certificates in gunnery and torpedo), he applied to train as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, then under the dual administration of the navy and Royal Air Force. Promoted to lieutenant on 30 August 1925, he gained his ‘wings’ in 1926 and from then on committed himself to the Fleet Air Arm, being attached to the Royal Air Force for a period of four years as a flying officer. In April 1926 he was posted to RAF Leuchars in Scotland.
An Avro Avian, the aircraft type in which John took part in three King’s Cup Races
In December 1926, John joined the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes for flying duties on the China station during the conflict between the communists and Chiang Kai-shek‘s nationalist armies. On returning from China he bought his own aeroplane, an open cockpit Avro Avian and took part in three Royal Aero Club King’s Cup Races. He was posted to the aircraft carrier HMS Furious in the Atlantic Fleet in April 1930, the battleship HMS Malaya in the Atlantic Fleet in January 1931 and then the cruiser HMS Exeter in the Home Fleet in December 1931.
Promoted to lieutenant commander on 30 August 1933, John joined the battlecruiser HMS Renown in October 1933 and transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous as Staff Officer (Operations) for the Home Fleet in August 1934. During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, he spent much of 1936 based in the western desert outside Alexandria. Promoted to commander on 31 December 1936, he was appointed to the Admiralty’s naval air division, where he was involved in discussions about the transfer of the Fleet Air Arm to the sole control of the Navy. He was posted to the cruiser HMS York on the America and West Indies Station as Second-in-Command in June 1939.
John served in the Second World War initially with HMS York, taking part in the Atlantic convoys, participating in the Norwegian campaign and transporting arms around the Cape of Good Hope to Egypt for use in the western desert campaign. He was mentioned in despatches on 11 March 1941. Promoted to captain on 30 June 1941, he became Director-General of Naval Aircraft Production at the Ministry of Aircraft Production in summer 1941 and then naval air attaché at the British embassy in Washington D.C. from March 1943. There he arranged the training of British pilots in Canada and the USA and met the Russian aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky, with whom he discussed the introduction of helicopters for the Royal Navy after the War. He was given command of the aircraft-carrier HMS Pretoria Castle in August 1944 and of the brand-new light carrier HMS Ocean in June 1945.
The aircraft-carrier HMS Pretoria Castle which John commanded towards the end of the Second World War
After attending the Imperial Defence College in 1947, John was given command of the Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth in January 1948. He then returned to the Admiralty, first as Deputy Chief of Naval Air Equipment and then as Director of Air Organization and Training. He was appointed a Naval Aide-de-Camp to the King on 7 July 1950 and promoted to rear admiral on 8 January 1951 on appointment as Commander of the Third Aircraft Carrier Squadron, later renamed the Heavy Squadron, Home Fleet. Appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1952 Birthday Honours, he was posted to the Ministry of Supply as Deputy Controller of Aircraft that year and, having been promoted to vice admiral on 30 March 1954, he became Flag Officer (Air) Home at Lee-on-Solent in June 1955. He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1956 Birthday Honours, promoted to full admiral on 10 January 1957, and became Vice Chief of the Naval Staff in May 1957.
John became First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff in May 1960. He was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1960 Birthday Honours. As First Sea Lord he was primarily concerned with plans for the building of the CVA-01 aircraft-carriers (which were eventually cancelled in 1966). He was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 23 May 1962 and retired in August 1963.
Easton joined the Royal Navy in 1931 and qualified as a pilot at the start of World War II in which he saw active service on aircraft carriers. On 4 January 1941, flying a Fairey Fulmar of 803 Squadron from HMS Formidable during a raid on Dakar he force landed, with his aircrewman Naval Airman James Burkey and was taken prisoner and held by the Vichy French at a camp near Timbuktu until released in November 1942. He was appointed Assistant Director of the Tactical and Weapons Policy Division at the Admiralty in 1960 and was seconded to the Royal Australian Navy as Captain of HMAS Watson in 1962. He went on to be Naval Assistant to the Naval Member of the Templer Committee on Rationalisation of Air Power in 1965, Director of Naval Tactical and Weapons Policy Division at the Admiralty in 1966 and Captain of the aircraft carrier HMS Triumph in 1968. After that he was made Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Policy) in 1969, Flag Officer for the Admiralty Interview Board in 1971 and Head of British Defence Staff and Senior Defence Attaché in Washington, D.C. in 1973. He last posting was as Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies in 1976: he commissioned armourial bearings for the College which were presented during a visit by the Queen in November 1977. He retired in 1978.[1
Parents:Augustus John, Dorothy (Dorelia) Mcneill
Siblings:…rd Sir John, Unknown, Unknown, Gwyneth Johnstone, Vivien White (geboren John), Amaryllis Marie-louise Fleming, <Private> Vere Cole, De
Husband:Willem Jilts Pol
Ex-husband:Derek Ainslie Jackson
About Poppet John
Elizabeth Anne (“Poppet”) John: born Alderney, Dorset 9 March 1912; married 1930 Derek Jackson (marriage dissolved 1935), 1942 Villiers Bergne (marriage dissolved 1945), 1952 Willem Pol (died 1988; one stepdaughter); died London 22 October 1997.
Poppet always seemed faintly glamorous to the younger members of the John family; she was the aunt who lived in the South of France, mixed with grand people and loved a cocktail party. She had an exotically named stepdaughter, Talitha, and a charming husband, a Dutch painter who was always known by his surname, Pol. At their best they were a delightful, animated couple, who none the less suffered devastating turns of fate.
Yesterday I discovered Augustus John was the inspiration for ‘The Horse’s Mouth’ which was Bill Arnold’s favorite movie. Bill was the love of Christine Rosamond Benton’s life, and it was her desire to marry him one day. Then he was killed by a train the night of my eighteenth birthday. Exactly how and why this gifted artist and writer left the planet, remains a mystery, as does Christine’s death. What we know for certain, is Bill, Christine, and myself, were gifted artists. When my sister took up art, I was her role model. She wanted us to paint together, and be famous together.
He is said to have been the model for the bohemian painter depicted in Joyce Cary‘s novel The Horse’s Mouth, which was later made into a 1958 film of the same name with Alec Guinness in the lead role.
Do you recall this video where Michael and I talk about the Horse’s Mouth connection?
What’s going on? Are we back on the trail?
In the mural ‘Lyric Fantasy’ John’s employs members of his family, including a muse or two. Dorothy McNeill may be the center of attention. Here is Rena as Eurydice. Why is she half naked before the beautiful man playing the lyre?
I heard from no member of my family yesterday. For some reason, they all thought they were Art Experts, and when I disagreed, they fought me. My muses fought me! As a Art Historian, there is nothing I can do – but put them in my Literary Mural – just to render them stationary and well-behaved! I am not going to live forever and am compelled to leave behind a enduring legacy. Nothing has been easy. John managed to do it all. He got his muse and wife in bed with him, and, other women. He sired a hundred children between rendering masterpieces. John was surrounded by people. Like Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, and her good friend, Baron Rosenberg Rede, Augustus let everyone play. For him art was a group endeavor. The Gypsy Life is about adults playing and dancing together. Hippies did associate with his work.
John was known as a colourful personality who adopted an individualistic and bohemian lifestyle. Intrigued by gypsy culture and the Romany language, he spent periods traveling with gypsy caravans over Wales, Ireland, and Dorset. He based much of his work on these experiences, such as the painting Encampment on Dartmoor (1906). John was more modern in his approach to landscape painting, as seen in the bright palette and loose brushwork of paintings such as Llyn Trewereyn (1911–12) and The Little Railway, Martigues (1928).
After World War I, John’s creative vitality declined even as his reputation continued to grow. He painted portraits of many of the leading European personalities—politicians, society ladies, and literary figures—in a slick and somewhat superficial style, occasionally recapturing his former boldness and integrity of form. His most significant portraits include those of novelist James Joyce, playwright George Bernard Shaw, cellist Guilhermina Suggia, and poets Dylan Thomas and William Butler Yeats. John’s sister, Gwen John, was also a highly regarded artist who worked with the painter James McNeill Whistler and the sculptor Auguste Rodin.
This is one of four murals commissioned in 1909 to decorate the hall of the house in Chelsea of Hugh Lane, a private dealer in old master paintings. John designed the composition using his own family and friends as models, including at the right his wife Ida, who had recently died. It was painted from a full size drawing. John then painted out a figure at the centre, and suggested alterations to compensate. Hugh Lane died in 1915, and his paintings were never finished.
Lyric Fantasy was not displayed, nor given its title, until 1940. John devoted his early career to these decorative murals, which he based on drawings and colour sketches.
During her years in Paris she met many of the leading artistic personalities of her time, including Matisse, Picasso, Brâncuși, and Rainer Maria Rilke, but the new developments in the art of her time had little effect on her, and she worked in solitude. In 1910 she found living quarters in Meudon, a suburb of Paris where she would remain for the rest of her life. As her affair with Rodin drew to a close, Gwen John sought comfort in Catholicism, and around 1913 she was received into the Church. Her notebooks of the period include meditations and prayers; she wrote of her desire to be “God’s little artist” and to “become a saint.” In an often-quoted letter of ca. 1912, she wrote: “As to whether I have anything worth expressing that is apart from the question. I may never have anything to express, except this desire for a more interior life”.
In 1972 Redé had his portrait painted by the fashionable painter Anthony Christian. In 1975 the Hôtel Lambert was purchased by Baron Guy de Rothschild, whose wife, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild was a close friend of Redé, who inherited her beloved dachshund “Whiskey”; the Rothschilds henceforth used it as their Paris residence.
The Gypsy Lore Society was founded in Great Britain in 1888 to unite persons interested in the history and lore of Gypsies and rovers and to establish closer contacts among scholars studying aspects of such cultures. David MacRitchie was one of its founders and he worked with Francis Hindes Groome until 1892 to produce its quarterly journal. From 1892, the organisation was dormant until its revival in 1907, when MacRitchie became its president.
|We [The Gypsy Lore Society] must advance slowly and depend for success upon our work pleasing the public. Of course, all of us must do our best to secure new members, and by
Augustus John poses for the American press on board a ship.
Early in 1900, he married his first wife, Ida Nettleship (1877–1907); the couple had five children. After her death in 1907, his mistress Dorothy “Dorelia” McNeill, a Bohemian style icon, became his partner and later became his second wife, with whom he had two children. One of his sons (by his first wife) was the prominent British Admiral and First Sea Lord Sir Caspar John. His daughter Vivien John (1915–1994) was a notable painter.
By Ian Fleming‘s widowed mother, Evelyn Ste Croix Fleming née Rose, he had a daughter, Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999), who became a noted cellist. Another of his sons, by Mavis de Vere Cole, is the television director Tristan de Vere Cole noted for his contributions to TV series from the Sixties to the Eighties. His son Romilly (1906–1986) was in the RAF, briefly a civil servant, then a poet, author and an amateur physicist. Poppet (1912–1997), John’s daughter by his second wife, married the Dutch painter Willem Jilts Pol (1905–1988) whose daughter Talitha (1940–1971), a fashion icon of 1960s London, married John Paul Getty, was famously photographed in Marrakesh by Patrick Lichfield, and, after a brief hedonistic life, died of a drug overdose. His daughter Gwyneth Johnstone (1915–2010), by musician Nora Brownsword, was an artist.
Augustus John’s promiscuity gave rise to rumours that he had fathered as many as 100 children over the course of his life.[26
Christmas I hope that we shall find ourselves on the right road. Mr. Pincherle writes to me hopefully about his practical studies of Gypsy life in Trieste. As regards Orientalism in England generally I simply despair of it. Every year the study is more wanted and we do less. It is the same with anthropology, so cultivated in France, so stolidly neglected in England. I am perfectly ashamed of our wretched “Institution” in Hanover Square when compared with the palace in Paris. However, this must come to an end some day.[page needed]
Since 1989 it has been headquartered in the United States. Its goals include promotion of the study of Roma, Gypsies and Travelers. Gypsy Lore Society publications include journal ROMANI STUDIES continuing Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society and Newsletter of the Gypsy Lore Society. The biannual journal, Romani Studies, concerned with disseminating accurate information aimed at increasing understanding of these cultures in their diverse forms. The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society appeared in four series, starting in July 1888. The Society’s archives are held at the University of Liverpool.
The Society also sponsors programs and conferences. The Society has established the Victor Weybright Archives of Gypsy Studies, specializing in recent scholarly work on Gypsy, Traveler and related studies, for the benefit of researchers and students.
Current president of the Gypsy Lore Society is Elena Marushiakova.
Talitha Pol married John Paul Getty, Her father was Willem Jilts Pol, a painter who subsequently married Poppet John daughter of the painter. Tlaitha is related to Peter and Ian Fleming, and my kin, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, who descends from the Dutch families of Rover and Rosemondt. We are looking at a modern-day Dutch Bohemian Renaissance!
Ian Fleming’s novels generated more money from his books made into movies than Dan Brown, and was a real spy working with real codes.
Note how Garth Benton’s mural blends with Talitha’s shoot at the Getty mansion, where this photo of the world famous artist ‘Rosamond’ was taken.
Talitha was a Libra, a Bohemian Venus and lover to famous Rock Stars. She was a wild Bohemian woman, and is in my Family Tree.
Dorothy (Dorelia) McNeill (19 December 1881- 23 July 1969) was best known as a model for the Welsh artists Gwen John and Augustus John, was the common-law wife of the latter, and has been credited for inspiring “his first unequivocally personal work”. In her time she was regarded by some as an exemplar of bohemian fashion.
Dorothy McNeill was born in Camberwell, the daughter of a clerk and the fourth of seven children. While attending the Westminster School of Art in 1903 she met Gwen John, who in turn introduced her to her brother Augustus. That year Gwen and McNeill traveled together on foot through France, following the Garonne River. During a stay in Toulouse Gwen John painted several oils of McNeill, including Dorelia in a Black Dress, before the two proceeded to Paris, where they briefly shared quarters in 1904. McNeill left for Bruges with a Belgian artist, and was pursued by Augustus, with whom she returned to England. She lived in a ménage à trois with Augustus John and his wife Ida Nettleship, sometimes as part of a Gypsy caravan that would grow to include John’s children by both women. The arrangement lasted until Nettleship’s death in 1907, when McNeill became the principal female figure in the John household. Later she had an affair, at Augustus’ encouragement, with the painter Henry Lamb.
McNeill is often described as quiet and enigmatic. In Gwen John’s work she appears detached and simply dressed; in Augustus John’s art she at times served more exotic purposes, wearing scarves and long dresses, but was also the subject of domestic scenes, including those which show her with Augustus’ first wife and their children. It is said that she “made a significant contribution to the ‘bohemian utopianism’ of the artist’s most intensely creative period, c. 1903-1914.” Eventually she had two sons and two daughters with Augustus. She lived with him until his death in 1961. Her step-granddaughter was the 1960s bohemian fashion icon Talitha Getty.
Known for “a compelling stare when he looked at a woman,” Augustus John’s quest for the next enigmatic face was a compulsion he made no apologies for. It was a congenital weakness. A coquettish voice emanating from a plumply pretty face sustained his imagination at least for the duration of a portrait–as long as the coquettish voice knew to silence itself. He didn’t like talkative women.
Mistresses and wives overlapped in the same household. Sometimes his women shacked up with each other when the mystery had faded for him and a new intimacy had bloomed between them. He needed to consummate every passion for it to be meaningful to his work. To that end he would send his chosen one heartfelt letters, chase her to Paris, beseech and promise until she succumbed. They always succumbed. He was a roguish long-haired six-footer wearing dramatic Victorian coats and sporting an untamed beard.
Before he ever put brush to canvas, his vision often propelled him to style his muses in costumes. He looked to women for clues to the world and his existence in it. But he didn’t care for intellectual women. Although some of the letters written by Ida, his simple, long-suffering first wife, to her friend are the loveliest to read:
“You know I was very near the laudanum bottle–somehow it seemed the next thing. Like when you’re tired, you see an armchair and sit down on it. Now you ‘know all’, I feel a sort of support–it is funny. Others know, but no one has given me the support in the right place as you have. One held up an arm, another a leg, one told me I wasn’t tired and there was nothing the matter…With you I have something to sit on!”