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Walpurgis Night (verso: Study of a Man) (1900)

Augustus Edwin John

ink and watercolour on paper (verso: ink and watercolour on paper)

Tate, London, Liverpool and St Ives

Walpurgis Night (verso: Study of a Man) (1900)

© Tate, London [YYYY]



Drawing and Watercolour


Paper, Ink, Watercolour


34.9 x 48.3 (original stuck onto a larger sheet in order to increase the area) cm

Accession Number:



Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 1917



Ownership history:

Gifted by Henry Tonks (1862 - 1937) to the Contemporary Art Society (on condition it was given to Tate), 1913; presented to the Tate Gallery, 1917
Augustus John mentioned in letters from Swanage in the summer of 1900 to his fellow artist friends Sir William Rothenstein (1872- 1945) and Michel Hewitt Salaman (1879-1971), two years after they had been at the Slade School of Fine Art together, that he had begun a colossal canvas of Dr Faust on the Brocken; representing Walpurgis Night for which this wash drawing must be a study.

Saint Walpurga's Day, celebrating the devout Devonian nun, coincides with May Day, the eve of which was associated with the orgies of witches and, peculiarly, called Walpurgis Night. The Brocken or Blocksberg, the highest point of the Harz Mountains, was regarded as the centre of the witches' sabbath revelries. Goethe used the Walpurgis Night theme in Faust, and in this picture John depicts Mephistopheles and Faust taking part in the orgy. In 1913 it was given by the artist's teacher at the Slade, Henry Tonks (1862 - 1937), to the Contemporary Art Society to be presented to the Tate Gallery, which it was in 1917.

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