Winifred John

Winifred John was born in 1879 in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. She was the younger sister of renowned artists Gwen and Augustus John.   Aged eighteen she joined her siblings in Fitzroy Street in London, where she studied the violin.  When Gwen went to France, Winifred stayed with her for a short period, which perhaps sparked her love of travel.

Winifred is described as having an ‘inherent shyness’, yet in her early twenties (when society still frowned upon women travelling alone), she crossed the Atlantic to stay with her other brother Thornton, who was working as a prospector in America.  

By the summer of 1905 she and Thornton had reached Montana and stayed for some months, surrounded by Indians and rattlesnakes and wild animals.  They planned to travel to Mexico by boat along the Mississippi but abandoned this idea.  Instead Winifred travelled to Vancouver and on to San Francisco. 

Like her sister Gwen, Winifred supported herself with her creative talents; teaching violin or playing in theatrical orchestras.  For a number of years she gave violin lessons in California, ‘finding in every day freedom and adventure’.  In January 1915 she married one of her pupils, Victor Laude Shute, a failed painter who had turned to engineering and worked mostly for the growing railroads.  They had three children, with a fourth being still born in 1924. 

Winifred died in Martinez, California on 12 April 1967, aged 87.

Ganed Winifred John ym 1879 yn Ninbych-y-pysgod, Sir Benfro. Hi oedd chwaer fach yr artistiaid enwog Gwen ac Augustus John.  Yn 18 oed, ymunodd â’i brawd a’i chwaer yn Fitzroy Street yn Llundain, lle bu’n astudio’r ffidil.  Pan aeth Gwen i Ffrainc, bu Winifred yn aros gyda hi am gyfnod byr, a hyn efallai a sbardunodd ei chariad at deithio.

Disgrifir Winifred fel un oedd yn reddfol swil, ac eto yn ei hugeiniau cynnar (pan oedd cymdeithas yn dal i wgi ar fenywod yn teithio ar eu pennau eu hunain), croesodd yr Iwerydd i aros gyda’i brawd arall Thornton, oedd yn gweithio fel ymchwilydd yn America.

Erbyn haf 1905 roedd hi a Thornton wedi cyrraedd Montana ac wedi aros yno am rai misoedd, wedi’u hamgylchynu gan Indiaid a nadroedd ac anifeiliaid gwyllt. Eu bwriad oedd teithio i Fecsico ar gwch ar hyd y Mississippi ond rhoddwyd y gorau i’r syniad hwnnw.  Yn lle hynny, teithiodd Winifred i Vancouver ac ymlaen i San Francisco. 

Fel ei chwaer Gwen, roedd Winifred wedi dibynnu ar ei doniau creadigol am gynhaliaeth, yn rhoi gwersi ffidil neu’n chwarae mewn cerddorfeydd theatraidd. Am nifer o flynyddoedd bu’n rhoi gwersi ffidil yng Nghalifornia, ‘gan ddarganfod rhyddid ac antur bob dydd’.  Fis Ionawr 1915 priododd un o’i disgyblion, Victor Laude Shute, arlunydd aflwyddiannus a drodd at beirianneg ac a fu’n gweithio yn bennaf ar y rheilffyrdd oedd yn dod yn fwyfwy cyffredin.  Roedd ganddynt dri o blant, gyda phedwerydd yn farw anedig yn 1924.  

Bu farw Winifred yn Martinez, California ar 12 Ebrill 1967 yn 87 oed.

Mark Lewis, Deeds not Words: A Celebration of Women and Tenby, 2018.

Categories: Arts & Literature

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