Gwilym Prichard (1931 -2015)
Gwilym Prichard is an omnipresent artist in our Welsh Sale - an auction in which we currently hold the auction record for his work at £5200. In fact, auction records collated by www.the-saleroom.com record that twenty out of the twenty-two works sold for Gwilym’s work from £1000 up to that record price, were achieved at The Welsh Sale; we do know Gwilym’s work very well!
Gwilym Prichard was born in the Welsh speaking village of Llanystumdwy, near Cricceith on the South coast of the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. The son of a village school headteacher Hugh Pritchard and Rhoda Pritchard, he went on to study at Coleg Normal Bangor and then at Birmingham College of Art, becoming an art teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni (a school which also boasts the important Rhondda artist Ernest Zobole as a former teacher). Later his education career took him to head of the art department at nearby Friars school in Bangor.
In 1953, Gwilym married artist Claudia Williams and together they are the most celebrated of artist couples from Wales, albeit with very different output; Gwilym was primarily a landscape artist and Claudia’s figurative work focusses on family groups with a narrative. In 1955, Gwilym was runner-up for the gold medal for fine art at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and between 1966 and 1974, he had six solo exhibitions at Heal’s Mansard Gallery on Tottenham Court Road, London. We often see Heal’s labels on the examples of his work that are entered by London clients to our Welsh Sale auctions.
It was only in 1980 that Gwilym Prichard adopted an old spelling of his family name to avoid being mistaken for another artist named “Pritchard” whose work he spotted in an exhibition catalogue.
During the mid-80s, when their four children were grown up, Gwilym and Claudia travelled around Europe in a camper van; it was planned as a three-month trip but turned into a sixteen year French adventure, living in various parts of Brittany and Provence. Gwilym’s work was held in high acclaim in those French regions. The “vigorous and geometric structures” of his landscapes struck one critic as “very Cézanne-like”.
In 1992, Gwilym and Claudia co-founded the Rochefort School of Creative Arts in Brittany, where students were offered classes in life drawing, watercolour, and sculpture. And in 1995, Gwilym was awarded Silver at the Societe Academique des Arts-Sciences-Lettres de Paris. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales in 1996 while still living in France.
Prichard said that he “did not set out to be an artist” but nevertheless he invigorated British landscape painting through his unique methods of understanding and observing his environment. He once said, “I paint the land and farms, the sea and sky because they … shaped my life''.
The couple moved back to Wales in 2000, setting up home and studio in Tenby, Pembrokeshire.
After the death of Sir Kyffin Williams in 2006, Gwilym Prichard was widely accepted as the senior figure in Welsh landscape painting. He died in 2015 at the age of eighty-four.
Gwilym Prichard is remembered as primarily a Welsh landscape artist and his paintings in oils were his tour de force. Often these paintings captured a barren harsh and craggy landscape in earthy colours with the finished work leaning towards a rather abstract outcome. But he was adamant that the finish should never be far removed as to have lost the initial inspiration from the landscape.
We would often see skeletal windswept trees and desolate ancient farms. There is a severe wildness to much of his work and also perhaps a loneliness or even a melancholy too - which some might describe as typically Welsh. He certainly painted with feeling and the artist himself described his work as ‘emotional’ rather than ‘analytical’.
If you have any Welsh paintings, including by Gwilym Prichard or Claudia Williams then we would love to hear from you. We can provide an auction valuation without obligation or cost. Please contact:
Ben Rogers Jones email@example.com