Ruth Borchard recorded that she first contacted John White in 1958 but notes that there was ‘no s-pt [no self-portrait]’. She contacted him again in 1962, so it seems that this picture was acquired in that year, or soon after. It is quite likely that White was an art student at the time, his work perhaps spotted by Ruth in a college show. Undated and unsigned, this small, intense, extremely accomplished picture shows a long, lean face with prominent ears, full lips and thick black hair on top. The openness of his countenance co-exists strangely with the moving puzzlement of his opaque black eyes.
The picture’s rich colourism is in the tradition of Post-Impressionist, Fauvist and Expressionist art. White’s way of painting flesh as some kind of brilliant, phantasmagoric landscape only serves to accentuate an impression of palpable yet evanescent human presence.
(If anyone can provide further information about this artist, we would be very grateful to hear from them).