I have always been a bit obsessed with landscape painting: from the sublime panoramas of Claude Lorrain, to William Hodges’ views of eighteenth-century Tahiti, to Van Gogh’s radiant, impressionistic wheat fields. I am always on the lookout for new landscape painters to add to my repertoire of obsession, and recently, I came across Kyffin Williams (1918-2006). Born on the island of Anglesey in Wales, UK, Williams is widely regarded as the most well-loved painter of twentieth-century Wales.
His pallet-knife landscapes of white Welsh cottages and craggy Snowdonia mountains are bold, impasto, oily wonders that somehow portray the atmosphere of a landscape. Art historians love to make comparisons between modern artists and great artists, and so they come to a bit of a stumbling block with Williams – he is truly unlike anyone else.
In 1968, Williams won the Winston Churchill fellowship to study and paint in Y Wladfa, the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, Argentina (find out more about the Welsh people that settled in Patagonia to preserve their language and culture).
Much like his Welsh landscapes, Williams’ paintings from the trip are stunning. Moving from the luscious greens and rain-soaked greys of the rugged Welsh landscape, to the hot oranges and mustard yellows of Argentina forced the artist to radically alter his pallet. There is one painting in particular that makes me smile – in ‘Buildings, Patagonia’, c.1969, Williams managed to find a hamlet of small white buildings that could have been airlifted from Anglesey and dropped in the purple-grey mountains of remote Argentina.
Williams’ paintings are characterized by their visual simplicity. And so, this will be a similarly simple blog post, to celebrate the wonders of his work without too many words.