Augustus John’s “The Sphinx”

I was born a red-head and have had a love-hate relationship with other red-heads for almost all my life. We are a feisty little group of people but passionate is certainly a word that explains our fire. I have always found myself and fellow red-heads, feisty, strong willed with little snip-its of mysterious darkness here and there. I think red-heads have a great talent for reading other red-heads. But then there are those times that stump you! In my Freshman ,y year in college, I befriended a beautiful red-head female. She was to be my beard my freshman year because she one of only handful friends who called me out for being gay. Don’t ask her name because I cannot for the life of me, remember her name. 

She was so nice, so friendly and extremely innocent. One night before we were to hit the frat party circuit, I was in her room while she was getting dressed. She dropped her drawers to put on a pair cute lace panties and WHOOP, there it was! She’s a blond! I screamed out, “I knew you were not a real read head”. She was first embarrassed and then acted puzzled why I would even think that. I explained how her personality did not fit with all the other red heads I have known at that point in life. She was extremely open and very innocent when it came to putting herself out there. I use to think I could spot a dye job a mile away but I learned quick, I wasn’t that good.

This brings me to the Sphinx. I was doing research recently for my birthday party and ran across and article that spoke of Augustus John during the 20’s and 30’s in Paris. He was a post-impressionist painter that I studied about back in college who spent many years in Paris and several years in many, many women’s beds. John’s certainly gave Picasso a run for his money in the ladies department. The man only managed to marry two women but fathered several children out of wedlock. One of his lovers was Evelyn Flemming, mother to James Bond author Ian Fleming.

His paintings were a dark, 3 dimensional version of John Singer Sargent’s great portraits. Back in college I do remember seeing The Sphinx, which is perfect example of his technique and vision. To this day the woman who sat for the portrait is still unknown. My professor mentioned during a class that some insiders from the period, stated that woman actually never existed. The consensus was that the woman is combination of two women, Luisa Casati & Iris Tree, who had sat for him prior. Today the painting is owned by musician Bryan Ferry. I love this painting because the passion in the colors and lighting is near perfection. The mystery with it’s backstory is just icing on the cake.

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