In 1948 King Penguin published a delightful guide to Wales with a text by Gwyn Jones and illustrations by Kenneth Rowntree. A Prospect of Wales was an iconic book of my childhood, slender and delightfully designed. Rowntree was one of the handful of painters, including Piper and Ravillious, that imaged the British landscape for post war generations.
In 2004 I produced an exhibition for the Martin Tinney Gallery titled, in homage to the King Penguin book, Prospects of Wales. I made a series of 30 x 30 cm paintings, selecting as my subject matter landscapes and buildings that were long familiar to me. Many I’d first visited as a small child when I accompanied my father as he drove the length and breadth of South and Mid Wales as a ‘wayleaves officer’ for the S. Wales Electricity Board. My paintings for Prospects of Wales were an homage to Rowntree and a tribute to my dad for having instilled in me the countryman’s love of landscape. But they were also effectively the last of my paintings that consciously nodded to the ‘neo-romantic’ tradition I’d grown up knowing and loving in the 1950s. Here are images of some of them.
Toll House, Anglesey
Penpont, Early Summer Morning
Laundry Cottage, Penpont
Saint Anne’s Head
Chapel at Cwm Camlais
Chapel at Cwm Camlais II
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They are all wonderful, but the St Anne’s head lighthouse made me catch my breath and tears come to my eyes – your work does that sometimes, in quite unexpected ways.
I recall you wrote a while back that a still-life painting of mine showing a yellow clematis in a jug caught you off-guard and brought a lump to your throat. I’m glad that painting can occasionally do that, elicit an emotional response more usually attributed to music and poetry. My partner Peter once started asking friends of ours whether a painting had ever made them weep… just out of interest… and the affirmatives were surprisingly few. Provoking tears through the medium of paint is not something I’d know how to set out to do, but I’m gratified when my work moves people, and grateful to you Lucy for telling me about your responses. Such things help me better understand what I’m striving for in my painting. Thank you.
Loved the photographs of lily-of-the-valley on your BLOG, and what you wrote about the flower and its meaning.
2:00 a.m. Have turned in a promised ms. and must roll into bed. But I enjoyed the link between book and paintings. Nice to see these after seeing those very early landscapes: this being a kind of bridge. And speaking of bridge: like that castle so much, and the splashes of color in the water below. Yes, the new bridge to the neighbors needs color!
Congratulations on getting the ms off. Glad you like the castle. Not a stone’s throw away from it along the headland path is the tiny hut where Dylan Thomas closeted himself to write, a short distance from the home he shared with Caitlin. (They were a rackety pair and a quiet place away from the arguments must have been a welcome retreat for him.) A glass pane gives visitors a view inside. Not that there’s much to see. A table and chair and a few postcards drawing-pinned to the walls. But he had those views over the estuary, sublime views that he must have long gazed at as his poems gestated. I imagine him watching the herons by day and the hunting owls and bats come twilight, and the shifting patterns of light on the ever-changing water. Laugharne was the model for Llareggub, the setting of Under Milk Wood, and the people of the village must have thought Thomas’s saucy reinvention of their little community a pretty rum thing. A bit of a cheek! But he sat at the table in his hut, putting enough distance between himself and the day-to-day of home and community. The writer alone with his thoughts.