Kyffin’s papers

Kyffin Blog - Posted 25-01-2011

As the Kyffin Williams project draws to an end, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the diversity of the archives which have now been catalogued.

Amongst the correspondence, 1939-2006, are letters from fellow artists, galleries and institutions, admirers of his work, and friends from Patagonia (documents relating to his visit are included amongst his personal papers).  A group of letters from Kyffin, dating from his childhood, is particularly precious.

His journals provide an insight, for over a decade, into the everyday life and thoughts of one of Wales’s most influential artists, recording when and where he sketched and, perhaps surprisingly, revealing how difficult he often found the process of drawing and painting (“Somehow I find blue a very difficult colour”, 21/9/1999).  Financial papers show which paints, canvases and frames were used and record how the value of his work increased over the years.  With the comprehensive collection of catalogues of solo and group exhibitions of his work we can track Kyffin’s stature as an artist, and numerous letters discussing exhibitions are dispersed throughout the main series of correspondence.

Kyffin was much in demand as a public speaker and notes used for his talks unsurprisingly reveal that his main themes relate to art, including his own work and experiences as an artist.  He was a natural raconteur and his autobiographical works Across the Straits and A wider sky proved extremely popular; the manuscript drafts of these reminiscences are amongst the highlights of the group of literary works by him.  As well as publications written by Kyffin, we also hold some illustrated by him.

This patchwork of disparate items (some of which include pencil or ink sketches), when brought together, gives us a captivating overview of Kyffin’s life and enables us to place his pictorial work within a wider context, adding depth to a collection we are so fortunate to have at this Library.  Despite Kyffin’s rich legacy of pictures and photographs our understanding of this remarkable artist would be so much the poorer without these archives.

Sian Bowyer

3 responses

This is a wonderful project. Can you say when and if the contents of these documents will be published or released?

Malcolm Allsop

Commented January 26, 2011 / 21:00:47

Thanks for your comment, Malcolm. It is certainly a wonderful project and we have been privileged to be a part of it. We hope to be able to release descriptions of the pictures, photographs and archives on our on-line catalogue in the near future. When all copyright issues have been resolved digital images of most of the pictures and many photographs and slides will also be released. As regards the papers, the journals and some letters by Kyffin have been digitised and these again will be available in the future.

Barbara Davies

Commented January 28, 2011 / 17:09:05

I have enjoyed the blog. A pity there was not more feedback.

Da iawn.

Annette Strauch aus Eichenberg

Commented February 16, 2011 / 15:23:23




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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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