I’ve just got back home after spending most of the week in Cardiff attending a conference. It was a busy week with no time available for sightseeing, which was a pity as I’ve not been to Cardiff for quite a few years and there have been a lot of changes, especially around the waterfront, since my last visit. However, when I arrived on Sunday I had a few hours to spare when I was able to call into the National Museum of Art which is located in a single series of integrated galleries in the National Museum of Wales. Although considerably smaller than the National Gallery in London, they had an excellent, comprehensive collection of paintings, sculpture and ceramics that were displayed very effectively.
The collection includes a particularly impressive selection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist works drawn largely from the collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. There is also an extensive display of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The Davies sisters were the granddaughters of David Davies of Llandinam, a wealthy industrialist who made his fortune from contracting, coal, railways and the docks at Barry. When their grandfather died they each inherited the very tidy sum at the time of £500,000. Although they hadn’t previously shown any particular passion for art, they used the money to amass a collection, including works by Turner, Corot and Millet Carrière, Monet and Rodin. By 1924, they had the largest collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in Britain. Between 1951 and 1963, they bequeathed 260 works to the National Museums and Galleries of Wales – including La Parisienne by Renoir, one of Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Rain, Auvers by Van Gogh
and Rodin’s The Kiss.
All on show today in the Museum.
Works of Modern Art included paintings by David Hockney (who’s been “flavour of the month” lately), Francis Bacon and sculptures by Reg Butler. I particularly liked a painting by Eric Zobole, an artist I hadn’t heard of before, entitled "Some snow and trees. It was very simple and effective. Unfortunately I wasn’t permitted to take a photograph, and it isn’t available to view on the Museum’s interactive gallery either due to copyright restrictions.
There was a good selection of works by Gwen John which I think I’ll come back to at a later date. And works by artists from the 20th Century including Barbara Hepworth, Kit Wood, Henry Moore, Eric Gill, Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier Brezeska, including this statue of a wrestler that reminded me of the Incredible Hulk!
Earlier works (pre-Impressionist) are displayed in a number of galleries featuring “Historic Art”. Time was limited, so I concentrated on the Impressionist and more Modern works as I’m less interested in those from earlier periods. I did find time, however, to have a look at Titian’s Diana and Actaeon that the gallery have on loan from the National Gallery in London. The painting is actually “on tour” and had previously been shown at the Walker in Liverpool (where we’d missed it!) and in Norwich. It’s being shown in Cardiff until 17 June. The painting is one of six large-scale mythologies inspired by the Roman poet Ovid that Titian painted for King Philip II of Spain.
One of the highlights of my visit was the temporary exhibition of paintings and drawing by John Piper of The Mountains of Wales. It was excellent, including some beautiful, atmospheric pictures. I’ll be writing up a post on this in the near future.
A few hour’s wasn’t enough to take in all the works on display. It would need several return visits. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be a while before I get the chance to return.