Augustus Edwin John O.M., R.A.
Sketches of Helen Balfe, 1924
Signed and inscribed Augustus / John / to Helen (ll, lr); also dated 1924 (lr) and further inscribed Was this the face that launched ten thousand ships? (cl)
Pencil on paper laid down on card
12 1/2 x 11 3/4 inches (31.7 x 29.8 cm)
Helen Meany Balfe (1904-1991)
Mr. and Mrs. Gary Cooper, Brentwood residence
Thence by descent to the current owner
Augustus John was at the height of his fame when, following his second visit to the U.S. in April - June 1924, the year he won first prize at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh for his magnificent portrait of the Portuguese cellist Madame Suggia (Tate Britain), he was invited by W. B. Yeats and his friend the Irish senator, Oliver St. John Gogarty, to attend a cultural programme of events as part of the Tailteann Games in Dublin, a revival of the ancient games which had been planned to follow the Paris Olympics (May - July). This enabled Olympic athletes to participate in Dublin, and given that American athletes were included, it is possible that the Olympic diving champion Helen Balfe took part after competing in Paris. Whether Augustus met Helen Balfe in Dublin or the following month while he was in Paris, we will never know, but they evidently hit it off. Augustus has caught her bare shouldered, from two different angles, and in his inscription made play with her name.
We are grateful to Rebecca John for her assistance in cataloging this work.
C Property Sold to Benefit the Gary Cooper Endowed Fund for Student Support of Indigenous Cultures at USC
Additional Notes & Condition Report
Frame: 19 1/8 x 18 inches
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