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Mamwlad

Mamwlad

From Tenby to the world - Gwen John's amazing story

She left Tenby as a young girl against her father's wishes. She travelled to Paris to be an artist and to live independently. Yes, it's fair to say that Gwen John was a bold and daring lady at the end of the 19th Century - but do we know the full story?

Tune in to S4C on Sunday, 2 February for Mamwlad with Ffion Hague, when we'll hear about the artist Gwen John - from the colourful love affair that filled her life to her quiet and mysterious death.

"When Gwen was only eight years old her mother passed away and the family moved from Haverfordwest to Tenby," explain Ffion Hague in the series which looks at the lives of pioneering women from Wales. "There are many letters showing this to be a difficult time for Gwen and her family, and suggesting that her dad was a cold and distant man."

It's no surprise that Gwen's interest in art and painting offered an escape from this unhappy reality, and as soon as she could, Gwen followed her brother Augustus to the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where she received much praise for her work.

"Gwen would have received classical training as well as life drawing lessons at Slade," explains Dr Sharon Morris, a senior lecturer at the college. "Everyone thought Gwen was more talented than her brother Augustus, and she won a prize for her figure composition in her final term - that would have meant achieving an ambition for her."

After she'd graduated, Gwen moved to live with friends in Mont Parnasse in the heart of Paris, a mecca for young artists at that time. Augustus John encouraged his sister to offer her services as a model to the world famous sculptor, Rodin, who had a studio there.

From the moment she met him, Gwen fell madly in love with Rodin, and that all-consuming love affair along with her passion for art took over her life for many years.

"Rodin was nearly forty years her senior but this was the great love affair of Gwen's life," says Ffion. "In the Rodin Museum's Record Office there is indisputable evidence of their relationship - over two thousand love letters written to Rodin by Gwen."

How did Rodin and other contemporary artists influence her work? How did this girl from Tenby get her work displayed in one of the century's most important galleries in New York? What happened to Gwen after the love affair ended? And where did the artist's journey come to an end?

Ffion Hague is joined by Dr Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan, Editor of Llythyrau Gwen John (Gwen John's Letters); Manon Rhys, author of Cysgodion; and art historian Mari Griffith, to look closely at the layers of Gwen John's story, creating a full and striking portrait of her amazing life.