Augustus John was born in Tenby, Wales, on January 4, 1878. Upon completing his studies at the London Slade School of Art from 1894 to 1898, where he was noticed early on for his talent, he left to study in Paris, then travelled to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. By 1900 he had begun exhibiting at the New English Art Club, London, becaming a member in 1903. In the same year he had his first solo show at the Carfax Gallery. From 1901 to 1904 he taught painting at Liverpool University. Particularly fascinated by the gypsy traveler way of life, John devoted himself to a nomadic existence for a period of time whilst continuing to paint in Ireland, Dorset, and Wales.

Initially known for his drawings and woodcuts, his fame is owed the numerous portraits that made him the most significant English portraitist of the 1920’s. The Marchesa Luisa Casati, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Edward Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, and Dylan Thomas were among the figures whose portraits he painted. During World War I, he enlisted as a war artist for the Canadian army, but after two months in France was discharged for participating in a brawl.

During the later years of his production, Augustus John wrote two autobiographical books, Chiaroscuro: Fragments of Autobiography; First Series (1952) and Finishing Touches (1964), and despite becoming less recognized within the English art world, still enjoyed notable consideration, as the important exhibit dedicated to his work at the Royal Academy would show in 1954. John continued to paint until his death in Fordingbridge, England, on October 31, 1961.