Augustus John (1878 – 1961) was born in Tenby and spent his early years living there and in Haverfordwest.
A brown plaque on the facade of what is now the Belgrave Hotel on the Esplanade in Tenby commemorates John’s birth there on 4 January 1878, and another decorates 32 Victoria Street where he lived from 1884 to 1894. A blue plaque at 5 Victoria Place in Haverfordwest notes that he lived there from 1878 to 1884. John attended the Tenby School of Art but only for a short time. He left Tenby at the age of seventeen to attend the Slade School of Art in London, where his older sister Gwen was also a student. John’s outstanding ability was soon noticed by his drawing teacher at the Slade and he came to be recognised as the most talented draughtsman of his generation.
Famed as much for his bohemian lifestyle as for his talent, John was fascinated by Romany culture and sought out the “gypsies” during his extensive travels through the UK and Europe. During the 1920s John was recognised as the leading portrait artist of his day, working on pictures of celebrities of the time including Dylan Thomas, T E Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw. John was, during his life, a Trustee of the Tate Gallery and President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. John died at his home in Fordingbridge, England, in October 1961.