Augustus John was born in Tenby in 1878. He studied at the Slade School in London (1894-99) with his sister Gwen John. After injuring his head after diving into the sea while on holiday his personality changed. He grew a beard, dressed as a Bohemian and drank heavily. His painting became more adventurous and his friend, Wyndham Lewiss remarked that John had become a "great man of action into whose hands the fairies had placed a paintbrush instead of a sword".
Considered to be the most talented artist of his generation, in 1898 John won the Slade Prizee with Moses and the Brazen Serpent.
First World War in 1914, John was the best-known artist in Britain. His friendship with Lord Beaverbrook enabled him to obtain a commission in the Canadian Army and was given permission to paint what he liked on the Western Front. He was also allowed to keep his facial hair and therefore became the only officer in the Allied forces, except for King George V, to have a beard.
In later life, John wrote two volumes of autobiography, Chiaroscuro (1952) and Finishing Touches (1964). Augustus John died in 1961.
By the 1920s John was Britain's leading portrait painter. Those who sat for him included Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence.