Romancing Wales


John Piper, (1903 -1992) Llanthony Abbey, 1941, oil on panel, National Library of Wales © Estate of John Piper / DACS

My partner, Peter Wakelin, is the guest curator for the forthcoming exhibition, Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape, at MOMA Machynlleth. The exhibition will run from 19 March to 18 June.


John Elwyn, (1916 – 1997), The Stillness of Roots, 1946, private collection.

With over 60 works on the theme of Romantic and Neo-Romantic landscape dating from the late eighteenth century to the present, it’s the most substantial exhibition MOMA has yet produced. For close to a year Peter has been tracking down works in public and private collections across the UK, and with the assistance of the MOMA team has arranged the extensive loans that have been brought together at Machynlleth for Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape. He has also been able to draw on MOMA’s substantial holdings of paintings by Welsh artists and artists working in Wales.


Thomas Jones (1742-1803), The Southern Extremity of Carnedde Mountain in Radnorshire, 1795, LLGC/NLW


Charles Shearer (1956— ), Towards Snowdon from Penbryn Quarries, 2016, gouache on paper, courtesy of the artist


During a painting trip to Wales, Charles Shearer puts finishing touches to Towards Snowdon from Penbryn Quarries while staying with Peter and me at Ty Isaf.


Eleri Mills, (1955— ), Tirlun II – Landscape II, paint, hand stitching and appliqué on fabric, private collection.

hicks-jenkins 024.jpg

Clive Hicks-Jenkins, (1951 – ), The Barbarian Brought Down by a Lioness from The Temptations of Solitude series, 2003, Tabernacle Collection, MOMA Machynlleth.

There is a publication, Romancing Wales, written to accompany the exhibition, in which Peter emphasises the key role the landscapes of Wales have played in the Romantic and Neo-Romantic traditions, a phenomenon largely ignored in what’s previously been claimed as an English movement, but that he convincingly posits should more rightly be seen as a British one. He writes:

‘I love Welsh landscapes, and I love landscape-based art, so it was a pleasure to come up with ideas about how to approach a show with something fresh to say. The idea the Lamberts and Richard Mayou liked best was an exploration that I had been mulling over for some years of the role of the Welsh landscape in the development of Romanticism in visual art. While I was Director of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales Nick Thornton curated the impressive Wales Visitation: Poetry, Romanticism and Myth in Art, but I was sure there was plenty still to explore. Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape, as we have called the MOMA exhibition, develops an argument that Wales has had a key role to play in Romantic landscape art. It’s a story worth telling both in its own right and as a corrective to the over-emphasis on Englishness and English artists in the history of British landscape painting.’

Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape

MOMA Machynlleth from 19 March to 18 June 2016. Open Monday–Saturday, 10am–4pm, admission free.

The accompanying publication, Romancing Wales by Peter Wakelin, is available from the gallery.