Lot 33
  • 33

C.R.W. Nevinson

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • C.R.W. Nevinson
  • The Yellow Scarf (Portrait of Augustus John)
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 34cm., 18 by 13 1/2 in.


Ewan Mundy Fine Art, Glasgow, whence purchased by the present owner


The canvas has been relined and is providing a good sound support. Similarly, the paint surface now appears to be entirely sound and stable throughout. Inspection under UV light reveals some fairly extensive but very fine scattered retouching, concentrated particularly in the hat and collar area, either side of the sitter's nose and in the left background. Presented unglazed in a substantial stylised dark wood frame - various minute chips and hairline scratches but entirely sound and ready for the wall. Please note that the skin tones are cooler in the original and the background is a more saturated grey-blue tha it appears in the catalogue photograph.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Nevinson belonged to a remarkable generation of artists who attended the Slade School just prior to WWI, and indeed in a photograph of a Slade picnic taken around 1912, we can see his fellow students, including David Bomberg, Dora Carrington, Stanley Spencer, Adrian Allinson, William Roberts, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg. As new bloods in the London art world, it was perhaps inevitable that their icons should be those artists of the previous generation who exemplified everything ‘modern’. Of these, one, Augustus John, stood head and shoulders above the rest as the artist and bohemian par excellence.

A former Slade student himself, John’s reputation in the 1910-1912 period was at its apogee. His undeniably superb draughtsmanship was considered by contemporaries to be at a level unmatched since the Old Masters, and his exhibition of paintings, Provencal Studies and Other Works at the Chenil Galleries in November 1910, neatly coinciding with Roger Fry’s seismic Manet & the Post-Impressionists, had given him a reputation as the leading British painter. Coupled with his image, which photographs of the period show to have been a curious combination of aesthete, dandy and gypsy, and his reputation, which was as a bon viveur in whose company no woman was safe, it is easy to see how John would have impressed even the most cynical art student. Nevinson’s admiration is evident in a breathless note written from the Café Royal in the company of Gertler, Currie and other artist friends, probably in early 1912, ‘John has just arrived wild excitement at our table keen competition whether he will sit at our table or the Camden Town lads…John did after all sit with us and was most pleasant and affable, he actually knew my name and all about me' (the artist, undated letter to Dora Carrington, Carrington Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas). However, this does offer some questions about the dating of the painting and Nevinson’s motivation in producing it. Although stylistically, the present work does seem to relate to Nevinson’s Self-Portrait (Tate Collection) of 1911, the handling would suggest a later date and John’s appearance here is very much in keeping with that of the photograph of him taken by Alvin Langdon Coburn (where John apparently wears the same jewel), dating from January 1914 (NPG Ax7819). The reference to John quoted above clearly does not suggest an acquaintance sufficient to have the older man sit for a portrait, yet in a further letter to Carrington, probably from August of that year, Nevinson declares, ‘I am not very fond of John’s work. It strikes me as being by a symbolic Slade man who is a marvellous exponent of Slade teaching, conventions and eccentricities, but somehow not quite art’ (the artist, HRHRC, Texas). By the early part of 1913, Nevinson was deeply involved with Wyndham Lewis and the Rebel Arts Centre and the evidence of paintings of that year, such as the now lost Waiting for the Robert E.Lee and The Departure of the Train de Luxe, show the new direction he was taking in both manner and subject matter. This may therefore raise the possibility that the present painting is more critical of John and everything he stood for than might appear to be the case at first sight.