The 8 x 6in (20 x 15cm) drawing was executed in 1905-06, shortly after the two men first became acquainted. In 1905 Epstein had left Paris and settled in London where he immediately became involved with the other young Bohemian artists and their wider circle.
John made two etchings of the head of Epstein in 1906-07, and another slightly larger red chalk that was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery at Sotheby’s in 1957 for £135.
The Nottingham drawing was acquired by Mr Samuels of Liverpool at J Leger & Son in wartime London (March 1944) before it passed to the grandfather of the present vendor. To the verso of a 1940s frame was a Leger Gallery label and another for the Jacob Epstein Sculpture and Drawings exhibition held at Leeds City Art Galleries and Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1987.
What the auctioneers called “a superb drawing in fine condition” brought a sum at the sale on June 16 only bettered at auction by a handful of other John portrait drawings.
The buyer’s premium was 20% plus VAT.