The paintings, by Welsh artist Gwen John have been reliably identified by a British based art expert. The 23 paintings were unearthed by Reading University Professor Anna Gruetzner Robins, amongst papers bequeathed to Princeton by symbolist poet Arthur Symons.
John had given the work to Symons in 1920 after a meeting in Paris. Gwen John rarely exhibited her art, for her to present these paintings to the Symons indicates that she regarded these paintings amongst her strongest work.
The paintings, amongst Symons’ papers, had been gathering dust in an accordion file since Princeton received the bequeathed papers in 1951. Professor Anna Gruetzner Robins happened upon them by chance whilst working as a senior research fellow.
Gwen John’s art was much admired by her peers and her more famous brother, who often claimed he would one day be known as “The brother of the artist Gwen John”. A graduate of the Slade, Gwen John counted Westminster School of Art graduate Dorelia McNeil and Edna Waugh among her contemporaries. Gwen John ran with the bohemian set led by her brother Augustus John, though she was not such a central figure.
John endured stretches of great poverty, with stories of Edna Waugh buying the starving artist a boiled egg and coffee for lunch. Whilst at the Slade Gwen and Augustus John saved money by living on fruit and nuts.
Gwen John’s art has perhaps escaped wider appreciation due to her usual chosen medium of watercolours and subjects of women, children and foliage. Her brush technique is actually quite exquisite.
Gwen John died in France in 1939. These recently discovered works are valued at £500,000 and will be on display at Princeton until 31 December.