Augustus John: the painter
Augustus John (1878 – 1961) was Britain’s leading portrait painter in the 1920s and a defender of New Forest gypsy rights.
He was a controversial figure, both for his unconventional lifestyle (he lived for a while in a commune and was known as ‘The King of Bohemia’) and for what some considered to be the ‘cruel’ depiction of his portrait paintings.
Augustus John came to live in Fordingbridge in 1927 and his home at Fryern Court became an open house for travelling artists. He continued to paint right up to his death.
He had a lifelong interest in gypsy culture and owned his own vardo (gypsy wagon). He was regarded by Forest gypsies, who called him Sir Gustus, as their king. As president of the Gypsy Lore Society, he fought hard for them to retain their rights to travel and settle where they liked in the New Forest.
A bronze statue celebrating his life can be seen in Fordingbridge on the banks of the Avon near the Great Bridge.