Augustus John was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, in 1878, the brother of the artist Gwen John. He initially attended the Tenby School of Art, before moving to the Slade, along with his sister. John was taught by Henry Tonks, and won the Slade prize in 1898. He married in 1901, and shortly afterwards began teaching at the University of Liverpool.
From 1910-28, John was entranced by the town of Martigues, Provence, and spent a great deal of time there. In this period, he became Britain’s leading portrait painter, and captured many distinguished subjects. When the Second World War broke out, he became a war artist for the Canadian forces.
John became a member of the New English Art Club, his chief exhibitor from that point onwards. In 1921 he was made an Associate Royal Academician, and 7 years later, a full Academician. He was trustee of the Tate Gallery (1933-41), and was given an Order of Merit in 1942. Following the War (1948-53), he was made President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.