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A brief encounter between: 'Two Jamaican Girls' and 'Amity'

Augustus John and Bernard Fleetwood-Walker

two Jamaican girls

Augustus John 1878-1961, 'Two Jamaican Girls' 1937

Boy and girl in field with flowers and fruit

Bernard Fleetwood-Walker 1893-1965, 'Amity' about 1933

Both these double-portraits were painted in the 1930s. Augustus John visited Jamaica in 1937 and used many amateur models such as hotel servants. The identities of both these women is unknown but what fascinated the artist was the colour, richness and texture of their complexions. Such paintings met with a mixed reception on his return to London. Those critics who approved did so on the basis that John had imbued his models with a 'noble beauty' - a European stereotype that earlier critics had often employed when talking about Paul Gauguin's paintings from his time in Tahiti.

The pale skins of the models in Fleetwood-Walker's picture are accentuated by their pale clothes and the bright sunshine. Despite the relaxed nature of this scene, the artist has actually painted a very formal portrait. Every centimetre of the canvas is carefully plotted, contrasting with Augustus John's more rapid, restless style.