by Scholes, Robert
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Augustus Edwin John (1879 - 1961)
Born at Haverfordwest in 1878 into a somewhat intimidating household --their Grandfather exhorted his grandchildren to " Talk! If you can't think of anything to say tell a lie!' and 'If you make a mistake make it with Authority!'-- the John children were looked after by two aunts, Rose and Lily, who rode round the neighbourhood in a wicker pony trap known as 'the Hallelujah Chariot'. The aunts held rank in the Salvation Army and variously followed the doctrines of the Quakers, Joanna Southcott and. Howell Harris. The John family moved to Tenby in 1884 and Augustus became a student at the Slade School of Art in 1894. In the summer between terms studying in London two incidents happened that would have a large influence in John's life - on a walking trip around Pembroke-shire he had his first encounter with Irish tinkers which would lead to a life long fascination with Romany culture and way of life. And in the summer of 1897 he suffered a severe accident hitting his head on a rock whilst diving into the sea, this seemingly resulted in a radical change in character-- later leading to the myth that he had dived into the sea, hit his head on a rock and emerged from the water a genius. Later he moved in with Henry Lamb and Dorelia McNeill at Alderney Manor near Poole. McNeill, who eventually became John's wife, featured in many of his paintings. On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, John was the best-known artist in Britain.