One hundred years ago this weekend, George Bernard Shaw was in Ireland, sitting for his portrait at the house of Lady Augusta Gregory – leading light of the Irish Literary revival, and patron of William Butler Yeats. The artist was the bohemian Augustus John, described by Shaw himself as: “a painter of advanced reputation among advanced people.”
John painted three portraits of Shaw over that weekend at Coole. Our version was exhibited by John at the New English Art Club summer show on 24th May 2015, and with the exception of a few further exhibitions celebrating Shaw’s life, it has hung at Shaw’s Corner ever since.
The second portrait is now at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, a gift from Shaw to his close friend Sydney Cockerill who was the curator there. It was through this version of the portrait that the Shaws met T E Lawrence who would become a very close friend. In March 1922, Lawrence accompanied Cockerill to the Shaws’ London home Adelphi Terrace to pick up the portrait, wanting to meet the great man. You can see the Fitzwilliam Museum catalogue entry for the painting here.
The third version was owned by the Queen Mother and hangs to this day in Kensington Palace. In fact, if you look very carefully at this picture from The Telegraphy of Prince George’s christening you should be able to see it!