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Edna Clarke Hall – tales of Augustus John

Edna Clarke Hall (1879–1979) was a watercolour artist, etcher, lithographer and draughtsman. In 1897 when she was fourteen she entered the Slade School of Art. Whilst there, Edna was taught by Henry Tonks, "the most renowned and formidable teacher of his generation" (famously blasted by the Vorticists.) She studied alongside Gwen and Augustus John, Ida Nettleship, Ambrose McEvoy and Albert Rutherston. Throughout her long life she did many illustrations to Wuthering Heights. She was also a close friend of the poet Edward Thomas.

These two anecdotes are taken from a tiny Slade Centenary catalogue (1971) that has an introduction by Anthony D'Offay. Both concern the wild youth of Augustus John...

Charlotte Street

Sometimes after working at the Slade all day, I would go with Gwen John and her brother (Augustus) to their rooms in Charlotte Street, where we would sit for each other.

One evening, John found he was without his key. Tantalisingly, the windows on the upper floor were wide open. John suddenly climbed onto the front iron railings and  went straight up the face of the house, using the crevices between the flat stones as handhold and foothold. We stood below in horrified silence holding our breath. He disappeared into one of the open windows and a moment later was standing smiling at the front door. ECH 1894

A Walk

In 1895 when he was on a visit  to us in St Albans, Augustus John and I went for a very long walk. I found it very hard to keep up with him mile after mile as he strode along at a great pace. At last, as I almost ran beside him, I confessed that I was very tired. He stopped and looked at me in surprise - I think he had forgotten that I was there, so lost in thought was he. Then, without a word, taking my hand, he stuffed it into his pocket with his own and on we went as before, but for me with a difference, for I was curiously comforted by the tight hold of his hand on mine.  ECH 1895

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