Christine Rew - Augustus John - Blue Pool

Podcast Transcript

Blue Pool, Augustus John

Hello I'm Christine Rew and I'm the Art Gallery and Museums Manager and the picture I've chosen to speak about is the Blue Pool by Augustus John. When I was asked to come up with something to speak about for this podcast, I found it really difficult to choose one item from the collection, because I've worked here for 30 years and I have lots and lots of different pieces that I really enjoy and have been such a big part of my working life here. But I have finally chosen the Blue Pool, because I think of all the pictures that I really like, this is one I'd love to have in my home. It depicts a summer's scene, oozing warmth and heat. The sky is brilliant blue, the chalky cliffs in the background have a golden glow, and in the foreground there's a young woman, lying languidly, propped up on one elbow, gazing over bright blue water. At first the viewer perhaps might think that this is a seaside scene, maybe from the Continent or the Mediterranean, the quality of the light is just so beautiful. But then we find that the water is actually the pool of the title and it's a disused clay pit which has been filled with water over the years. In fact, it's a famous beauty spot in Dorset and the vivid turquoise water is caused by the refraction of light from clay particles suspended in the water. In the woman's hand is an unopened book, and the whole feeling of the picture is one of ease and leisure. And I think it's that sense of contentment that draws me in to the picture. And also the harmonious connection between the sitter, who's dressed in fashionable clothes from the 1910s, in shades of blue and green that pick up the colours of the water and the sky and the rest of her surroundings. Even the colour of the book cover, a bright yellow, picks up the creamy chalky cliffs in the background. But it also acts as something of a punctuation mark, drawing the viewer's eye back from the landscape around to the sitter in the foreground. Augustus John painted this picture in 1911and he was a leading figure in the British art scene prior to the First World War when the world changed so completely in Europe. He gained a bit of a reputation as a reactionary to the art establishment and led a bit of a bohemian lifestyle. And the lady, the woman depicted in the Blue Pool is Dorothy McNeill, or Dorelia as she is better known and she became Augustus John's lifelong companion and his major inspiration. And alongside the feeling of warmth and contentment and ease, I think it's that tender depiction by the artist of the woman that he loves that draws me so completely into this picture.