Wonderful works of art

The magnificent landscapes of Wales have attracted artists from all over the world for centuries, but that’s just the start of the story. The contemporary art scene in Wales is vibrant and the work is wonderfully diverse - here’s a flavour of what’s on offer.

Giants of British art

Sir Kyffin Williams photo from Oriel Kyffin Williams

Sir Kyffin Williams photo from Oriel Kyffin Williams, Snowdonia

 by National Museum Cardiff

It’s no coincidence that the father of British landscape painting was born near Machynlleth in Mid Wales. Richard Wilson’s work during the 18th century is world-renowned and there are several pieces painted in his native country. Another giant of British art, J.M.W. Turner, painted in Wales and the perilous nature of travelling across Europe drew many other great artists to Wales. Thomas Jones, a pupil of Wilson’s, was also drawn back to his homeland after spending most of his life away from Wales.

That’s the case with many successful Welsh artists, including Gwen John and her brother Augustus, the Queen of Bohemia Nina Hamnett and Ceri Richards, whose work features in the Tate collection.

Sir Kyffin Williams is the best-known Welsh landscape painter of the 20th century. A collection dedicated to him is held at Anglesey's Oriel Ynys Môn museum and gallery, and he is buried at St Mary’s Church.

Inspirational landscapes  

Dolbadarn Castle by Richard Wilson from the National Museum Wales

Dolbadarn Castle by Richard Wilson from the National Museum Wales, Cardiff

 by National Museum Cardiff

Cedric Morris was a painter born in Swansea at the end of the 19th century, and his works were often informed by his surroundings in the South Wales Valleys. A teacher of Lucien Freud, The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery joins the likes of the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery in holding some of his works. The gallery was once curated by David Bell, a former assistant director of the Welsh Arts Council whose works are also held at the National Library of Wales. Bell was a champion of the sort of prodigious contemporary artists Wales has a fine history of producing, backed by the £6.5 million new space at Cardiff’s National Museum of Art.

North Wales and the South Wales Valleys 

Bedwyr Williams, to name one, is a former Becks Futures finalist with a passion for his home of Caernarfon, the North Wales home of one of the world’s most famous castles.

Elfyn Lewis, based in Cardiff and Porthmadog, paints colourful abstract landscapes, while David Burton-Richardson displays an infatuation with the Welsh valleys. Scolton Manor Museum holds some of the internationally-acclaimed artist’s work.

West Wales 

Oriel Plas Glyn Y Weddw, Pwllheli, Llŷn Peninsula, Snowdonia

Pembrokeshire has excited more artists than you can shake a paintbrush at, from Royal Mail stamp designer David Tress to the domestic visions of John Knapp-Fisher, a member of the influential Royal Cambrian Academy of Art .

Another member of the organisation is Shani Rhys James, a Powys-based, multi award-winning painter who earned an MBE for services to art in 2006, represented by Cardiff’s respected Martin Tinney Gallery. Cerith Wyn-Evans, who represented his country in its first Pavilion at the Venice Biennale a decade ago, paid tribute to history by beaming an early 18th century Welsh text, Gweledigaethau y Bardd Cwsc, into the Italian sky.

More museums and galleries in Wales