© the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
I believe it may have been painted in 1938. I think the subject may be a woman who had recently returned to England after fighting with the anarchists for the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, Margaret Greville Foster/Droescher (she went by a variety of other names too during a rather colourful career). She was married to a German, also a former anarchist militia fighter, who was interned in Devon at the outbreak of the Second World War. According to the diary of an English anarchist who knew Augustus John in the late 1930s or early 1940s, Greville had recently been sitting for John and the painter was one of a few influential people who helped secure Droescher's release from internment. Greville had also known John and his family in the 1920s, and may have sat for him previously (she was also painted by Mark Gertler). I stumbled across this image and was struck by the very close likeness of the sitter to photos of Greville soon after her return from Spain.
This discussion is now closed. The sitter has been identified as Greville Texidor (1902–1964). The following information has been added to the artwork description field ‘Margaret Greville Foster (later Droescher), a.k.a. Greville Texidor was Augustus John's secretary as early as December 1921, when she was nineteen, and was sitting for him by 1922. This is believed to be a portrait of her in her early twenties.’
Without meaning to contradict your expertise on the subject, the painting is possibly more likely to be from the early to mid-1920s. The attached newspaper reports show the Greville was John's secretary as early as December 1921, when she was 19, and was sitting for him by 1922. The composite shows two known photographs of Greville with this portrait. The hairstyle matches, at the very least. As Greville was born on the 18th January 1902, the attached photograph from c.1936 during the Spanish Civil War shows a woman of about 34 years of age, whereas this portrait would appear to show one in the early twenties.
In the publication Irish Society, of the 5th April 1924, a review of a film titled 'Moonbeam Magic', directed by Frank Orman, carries the following:
"Miriam is played by Margot Greville, a dancer at the Winter Garden Theatre, who is a model for Augustus John and other celebrated artists."
Kieran, your excellent research and comparison image do certainly indicate that the portrait of Texidor - there's no doubt in my mind that it's her - dates from the early 1920s, and probably c.1922. I wonder if Margot didn't half-suspect this too when she wrote, "Greville had also known John and his family in the 1920s, and may have sat for him previously". Either way she has made a brilliant discovery, and the Collection should be delighted to find themselves the owners of such a good portrait of such an interesting woman - it really ticks all the boxes for contemporary tastes and values.
Attached is a comparison with another early photo, which comes from one of a pair of very informative blogposts about her: https://bit.ly/3eumA04 & https://bit.ly/3sQ4Gd8. The blogger him(?)self gives a rather tiresome anti-British slant to it, with Texidor being "persecuted by the British government" after she had "fled Franco's victory", before being "forced to emigrate to New Zealand"; but the fuller story given by a less biased commentator in the second piece rather undermines the casting of the UK as hissing villain**.
[**Inter alia, she was actually evacuated from Spain by the Royal Navy; and although both she and her supposed husband were indeed interned in England as enemy aliens on the outbreak of war (he was German), the influential pleas for their release must have been successful pretty quickly - despite spending some time exploring future options and getting things organized, they had managed to get to Auckland after a long sea journey by early May 1940.]
Perhaps a Wiki contributor will be able to add one or more of these images to its entry, which gives the basic facts (citing Margot's biography)
This is fantastic - thank you all for your fantastic research! I think we can feel fairly confident that the subject is Margaret Greville Foster/Greville Texidor. Kieran's composite is fantastic visual evidence of this. I will save all of this info to our accession file and make updates to our current title and date information.
With thanks again,
This has been a fascinating piece of detective work, revealing a most interesting sitter. While there may be more to discover on Greville Texidor, the work has been, in my view, correctly located within the John oeuvre.
It only remains to thank Kieran and Osmund for their excellent work and hope, as Pieter suggests, that someone out there will append the images and information to Wikipedia.
Before closure, may I just add a few minor details concerning the sitter's unhappy and restless life, and which may - just possibly, though I doubt it! - be new to Margot Schwass, the remarkable writer and researcher who found the portrait?
Dr Schwass's three-year Ph.D research project into Grevillle Texidor's life, work and literary relationships, and that formed the basis for her subsequent book, can be read in its entirety here: https://bit.ly/3nsvLlS. It is a hugely impressive piece of work, fascinating to read, exceptionally well-researched and referenced, and impressively balanced in its assessment of Greville's strengths and weaknesses as both writer and human being.
I'll post the few extra things I've found this evening.
As a matter of record, the death on the 8th January 1919 of Greville's father, ten days before her 17th birthday, was officially adjudged to be accidental, rather than the suicide referenced in the link above and reproduced here:
The first attached newspaper extract, from the Staffordshire Advertiser, of Saturday 11th January 1919, gives a report on the death, together with some biographical details, and the second one (sorry about the poor quality of the image), from the Birmingham Daily Gazette of Saturday 11th January 1919, relates to the verdict of the inquest into the accident.
The sitter presents an issue for resolution on how best to title the painting: given its likely date possibly 'Margaret Greville Foster (later Droescher), a,k.a. Greville Texidor'. The collection must decide but perhaps Margot Schwass has a view as her biographer.
The attached sketch/print passed through ‘Bamfords Auctioneers & Valuers’ in 2014. Is this an image of Margaret Greville by Augustus John? It’s also signed with a dedication:
“To Bernard Adams
As it is from the cache, there is very little other information.
There is another two portrait paintings of the same lady by Augustus Edwin John (1878-1961), one was sold at Christie's 2009 and the other was one in private collection
Greville’s eldest daughter (by Texidor), Cristina, who is mentioned in some of the blogs referenced above, is still alive, aged 90 in Barcelona. She is a long-standing friend of my mother. Unfortunately she is not on the internet and my mother only has an out of date phone number for her, so I have sent the information about the Augustus John portrait in Cardiff to her by post and hope it gets to her soon.
Greetings from New Zealand, and thank you to everyone who has contributed their expertise and opinions on the background to the Augustus John portrait. It's been truly fascinating to see this conversation unfold.
I'm now even more certain that the painting is indeed of Greville Texidor/ Margaret Greville Foster, the subject of my 2019 biography "All the Juicy Pastures" (Wellington: Victoria University Press) as well as my earlier PhD thesis. When I wrote my book, I knew Greville had sat for Augustus John (and other painters, including Mark Gertler, Sidney Carline and Gilbert Spencer) in the early 1920s, but that no John portrait from that period had ever been identified. I also discovered that John painted her again – more or less out of pity – after she returned to London from the Spanish Civil War, ill and profoundly demoralised. When I chanced across the portrait in the Amgueddfa Cymru online collection, I knew straight away that it was Greville: the question for me was which period it dated from. I was then only weeks away from submitting my manuscript for publication. I sought advice directly from the museum (and posted my original query on Art Detective), but unfortunately received no responses at the time. For a range of reasons - including photos of Greville taken during and soon after her time in Spain - I considered that the portrait probably dated from the later period, around 1938. That is the hunch I went with in my book, in which the John portrait is reproduced.
However, in light of the information that’s since come to light here, I'm now less sure about the date. Greville Texidor was a consummate chameleon, changing her appearance (and name) wildly according to the many roles she played throughout her life – chorus dancer, model, movie actress and all-round party girl in 1920s; bohemian expat in Spain in the early 30s; anarchist militiawoman a few years later. She looked very different again in New Zealand, where she reinvented herself as a writer. I have to say I still see in the portrait the face and demeanour of the older, more careworn Greville, but I could certainly be persuaded otherwise!
I’m particularly interested in the 1924 sketch attached to S Elin Jones’s post, which I had not seen before. Arguably, this might be the ‘portrait’ John made of her in the early 1920s (or at least, a study for it), making the one in the Amgueddfa Cymru collection more likely to be from the late 1930s. However, I’m also intrigued by Jimaa Alaa’s reference to two John portraits ‘of the same lady’ having been sold by Christie’s, which suggests there may be multiple portraits in existence.
If anyone is curious to know more about the extraordinary life (and little-known literary achievement) of Greville Texidor, my book is available outside New Zealand through Amazon UK or Book Depository (see
The IPG catalogue page for the book is:
https://www.ipgbook.com/all-the-juicy-pastures-products-9781776562251.php?page_id=21. A cover image is attached.
Thank you once again to everyone who's participated in this discussion. I will pass on all the details that have emerged to Greville's daughters, Cristina and Rosamunda, who I know will find them of great interest.
I think I may have a couple of candidates for the Augustus John portraits that Jimaa Alaa mentioned. There was a "Portrait of a lady" sold at Christie's on 23 Sep 2009:
Unfortunately the listing isn't illustrated, but there's an entry on MutualArt:
which certainly looks very like Greville. The second portrait was also sold through Christie's, this time on 21 Nov 2003 as "Portrait of a young woman in a red tunic":
This time there is a picture. It's also dated to circa 1922, which would tie in with Greville's employment with John.
Looking at those portraits, especially the dated one, I tend to think that the NM Wales also one dates from the early 20s rather than the late 30s - though finding that missing one would be fascinating.
Just a more convenient file list, inc. available details, by last-sale date...
The single identity-clarifying line that the National Museum of Wales has added to the updated title on its website could usefully be added to the Art UK 'information' on this portrait.
'Margaret Greville Foster (later Droescher), a.k.a. Greville Texidor was Augustus John's secretary as early as December 1921, when she was nineteen, and was sitting for him by 1922. This is believed to be a portrait of her in her early twenties.'
The discussion could also now close perhaps as 'all sorted'.
I am strongly in agreement with the NMW's belief, shared by Mark, that it shows her in her early 20s, rather than Margot Schwass's conclusion that it could be from the late 1930s. The image that completely convinces me of this is the one showing her with her ‘husband’ Werner Droescher in Barcelona in 1936 ( https://bit.ly/3D15d2c ); this is surely a much older woman?
I find I never posted the documents I found some months ago that Dr Schwass may or may not be aware of, and that perhaps fill in a few gaps in her Greville chronology.
After her rescue from Spain by the Royal Navy in the winter of 1938-39, Greville returned to the England she so despised. Werner, attempting to follow her later via France, was initially refused entry to the UK and returned by the French to his native Germany, where he served for a short while (perhaps compulsorily) in the Wehrmacht. He was soon allowed to leave, however, and by early summer 1939 had gained entry to Britain: he and Greville were married in Kent in the second quarter of 1939 (attached). Their previous marriage in 1936 at Barcelona was in an anarchist ceremony, and not legally recognised in England (nor probably anywhere else); since they were hoping to move to New York, they decided to make their union an official one, though that automatically gave Greville the German citizenship of her husband.
At the outbreak of war in Sept 1939 she and Werner were listed in the Register (attached) as ‘welfare worker’ and ‘schoolmaster’ respectively (though they were in fact both working as volunteer social workers) at the Barham House, Suffolk, refugee reception camp for ‘Kindertransport’ Jewish children evacuated from Germany. And it was from there that not long afterwards they were both unsurprisingly arrested and interned as enemy aliens – Werner on 16th Nov, and Greville on 5th Dec. Greville probably did not help matters by proudly declaring her anarchist credentials to the Tribunal; nevertheless her influential ‘friends in high places’ quickly achieved their release as “special cases”, on 21st Feb 1940. See attached. They wasted no time in planning their departure from the England of this “betrayal”, though I cannot but wonder if a straightforward fear of the war in Europe wasn’t as important a reason as loathing for Britain and its government. Anyway they decided on a destination as geographically distant as it’s possible to get, and on 1st April – their passage arranged or at least enabled by the Quakers’ Germany Emergency Committee – set sail for New Zealand, where Greville had connections through her mother.
One final oddity. After they moved to Australia from NZ in 1948, Werner & Greville Droescher seem to have gone by the phonetically-similar surname of ‘Treasure’ – I suppose because of post-war anti-German feeling. They are listed thus in the 1949 New South Wales electoral register, which I initially assumed was an error from mishearing; but in fact it is given as an alternative surname for Greville in the listing of her 1966 London Probate sealing. See final attachments.
Just a footnote to my previous comment about other possible images. While I was playing Spot the Grev, I couldn't help being reminded of another picture, not by John:
which was recently the subject of an AD discussion (https://bit.ly/3mbokAR). While I don't think it's Du Maurier, it does bear a resemblence to Margaret Foster/Greville Texidor. There's the same mouth and chin and long neck; also the same dark eyes and heavy brows and more or less the same trademark haircut. There are slight differences, Atkin shows the nose and the bottom of the hair as straighter, but these may just be the results of a different style and John's greater technical skill.
I don't know if Atkin was one of the artists that Foster sat for in the 20s and the Laing picture may have been more the result of an informal sketch than any formal sitting. They certainly moved in similar upper class boho circles and were both in London at the same time. As it's in oils, it's possible it dates from Atkin's time at the Slade after the War as he mainly worked later in watercolour.
In the other discussion, Osmund wondered if the Atkin was a picture of an older woman and it's possible that it was painted in the early 30s if it's Foster, though Atkin was dead by the time she returned from Spain.