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Wilf Roberts & William Selwyn

Today Ben Rogers Jones discusses the paintings of two of his favourite artists from his native North Wales.

I have lived in Cardiff for several years now, but I am an Ynys Mon boy at heart, and it is a place that I miss. When it comes to North Wales artists, Wilf Roberts and William Selwyn are my tied favourites, both remind me of the delightful little corners of home.

Wilf Roberts (1941 – 2016)

Wilf Roberts grew up in Ynys Mon, and then went on to teach in South London during the 1960s and ‘70s, where he exhibited successfully. In 1973, he returned home to Mon to work in local government and began to accept local commissions, illustrated books, and donated pictures to various charities. But he did not exhibit in Ynys Mon until 1996, when eventually he held a highly successful solo-show at Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni. He retired that same year from education and concentrated on his art full-time.

Just as with North Wales artists Sir Kyffin Williams and Charles Wyatt Warren, who we have also discussed on the DIGITAL ROADSHOW, Wilf was known for his thickly layered landscape oil paintings. His work is distinctive in the selection of lucid colours he employed against darker more restrained sombre greys, blacks, and greens. Examples of these contrasting colours include burnt orange and ice blue. Aside from brushes, Wilf used all kinds of creative utensils to create texture on the canvas, including sticks, his fingers, bankcards from his wallet, and stones from the ground.

Much of Wilf Roberts subject matter was of his local corner of Ynys Mon, an area called Mynydd Bodafon, which is a few miles from the fishing port of Moelfre.

Mynydd Bodafon is the location of an ancient iron age settlement. The local lake of Cors Fawr, which appears regularly in his paintings, is of local legend; it is told that it is bottomless and is connected deep under the earth to the Snowdonia lakes. The area also holds a special place in druidic and spiritual history. It is no wonder Wilf felt it unnecessary to wander too far for artistic inspiration. However he occasionally also painted other special Anglesey places, such as Ynys Llanddwyn, where our patron saint of lovers Dwynwen, has her church.

William Selwyn (b.1933)

It is interesting to see these two artists side by side as they are so different in their painterly qualities, yet similar in their backgrounds and their love for their place.

Born in Caernarfon, after completing National Service in 1954 William Selwyn went to Bangor Normal College and then became an art teacher at two Caernarfon schools - Maesincla Primary School and Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen Comprehensive. William retired from teaching in 1990 and took up painting full-time.

William Selwyn’s subject matters vary from Welsh landscape, to animals and the workingman. Although we see oil paintings on occasion, most work that we see is in watercolour. William Selwyn is far better known as a watercolourist, as opposed to an oil painter. His style is characterised by atmospheric washes of paint which reminds many of JMW Turner's turbulent scenes, and similarly his landscapes often incorporate the weather as an important element to the picture, while the demonstration of movement is critical in his studies of sheepdogs, horses, and trawler-men.

Both these artists are in high demand around the UK. We would love to see your examples if you have any to show us, we can provide valuations and appraisals without obligation and charge by email.

Our next Welsh Sale is on September 12th with a couple of weeks left for entries.


Ben Rogers Jones BA (Hons)
Welsh Antiques, Welsh Art & Sporting Antiques Specialist

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